For the second year in a row, I'm catering the Cub Scout Blue & Gold Dinner. No, I'm not a caterer--I'm just Mrs. Cubmaster. But I certainly know how to make spaghetti and meatballs, and that's what we're having. It's easy, it's kid-friendly, and you can get some of it done ahead of time.
I was kicking myself earlier this week because I didn't save the papers last year where I calculated how much of everything I would need. Last year we had about 65 people at the Blue & Gold. Today we're expecting 103. Fortunately our parish center, where we host this event, has a fully-equipped kitchen, but there is stuff that I make sure to bring with me. I already spoke to the business manager and she offered us the use of certain staples like salt & pepper, sugar, tea bags, so we saved money there.
Little Brother has two more years in Cub Scouts, so I figured it would be a good idea to write down what--and how much--we used, to make it easier for next year.
We've also learned from some mistakes. Last year we made this dinner "semi-potluck." I made the spaghetti and meatballs. We bought the bread at a local bakery--their bread is amazing AND they give us a special price because we're a Scout troop. And we divided the rest among the Cub Scouts. One den brought beverages, another brought salad, two more brought desserts, and I can't remember what the last assignment was. That semi-potluck thing didn't work out well at all. We ran out of salad with the first 20 people, and I had to send my teenagers to ShopRite to get more soda.
This year we decided to charge $3 per person for the dinner, and each family was to bring a dessert to share. That $3 per person would cover the rest of it.
How did I do on budget this year? Well, I've spent about $300 and didn't even get to the bakery yet. I'll be a little over budget, but I had to buy things like plastic forks--those come in a box of 400 or so; we'll have forks for the next few events. I'm not going to ask the Scouts to give me back more than we take in, so the rest will just be a donation.
I worry a bit about quantity since last year we had quite a few "walk-ins." So I want to make sure I have extra food on hand just in case. I'll keep a few pounds of uncooked pasta ready to go in case we need to quickly make more.
A note about pasta: I say "spaghetti" but I'm really serving penne. It's much easier for young kids to handle this shape, and it's easier for the cooks as well (spaghetti sometimes slides through the colander holes when you drain it and makes a mess in the sink).
20 pounds of meat gets you about 320 meatballs. Yes, I rolled 320 meatballs last night. Little Brother helped a bit. I made him wear gloves! He loved it--he was busy squishing and mixing the meatballs, saying "This is SO 'Dirty Jobs'!" TheDad got home when we had about 3 pounds of mix to go, so he helped with the last bit as well.
Here's my shopping list:
24 pounds pasta, which may not be enough, so I'm going to get 4 or 5 more pounds just in case
20 lb. ground beef (80% lean)
92-oz. bread crumbs (I have about 2 cups left)
20 eggs (I donated these)
1 110-oz can tomato paste
12 28-oz cans tomato puree
12 29-oz cans crushed tomatoes
1 bottle each "dollar section spices"--garlic powder, onion powder, parsley, crushed red pepper, oregano, basil (I expect to only have crushed red pepper left after I make the sauce)
24 oz olive oil
large can of Kraft parmesan cheese
12 lb. bagged salad
3 large seedless cucumbers
3 pints grape tomatoes
1 large bag croutons
4 pints ranch dressing
4 pints Italian dressing
Here's my nonfoods list:
tablecloths for round tables--a BIG expense; these things are $3 EACH!
heavy-duty paper plates (we like Chinet)
bowls for salad
table napkins (2 bags of 250)
roll of paper towels
extension cords--heavy duty (all that I can round up!)
kitchen sponge (I like to bring a fresh one since the ones in the kitchen are usually icky)
dish soap (just in case--there will most likely be some there)
index cards (for labeling which coffeepot has decaf, among other things)
Sterno for chafing dishes
2 lb. coffee (not sure how much I will actually use)
2 lb. decaf
1 38-qt iced tea mix
2 gallons Boost (a local favorite--this will make 10 gallons)
ice water will also be available
hot tea (the parish center has tea bags so I don't have to bring any)
4 qts. half & half
Here's the proportions for making meatballs:
For each 1 lb. of ground beef (or meatloaf mix), add:
1 cup Italian-seasoned bread crumbs
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 1/2 tsp oregano
1 1/2 tsp basil
That will get you about 16 golf-ball size meatballs. Place on a baking sheet, allowing some room in between. I cover the sheet in foil for easy cleanup! Bake 20 minutes at 400.
Here's how I keep the pasta hot:
Cook pasta as usual. Pour a couple of TBL oil in the bottom of chafing-dish pans. Place cooked pasta in pans. Pour a little more oil over the top, toss, and cover. Keep warm in warm (200 degrees) oven or over chafing dish.