Good food, good company. It’s the perfect pairing for successful holiday entertaining. But hosting events during the busiest season of the year can be a logistical challenge. For this heartwarming event, invite guests to a buffet soup supper held over a two- to three-hour period. Select a time that best serves family and guest schedules, such as before or after an evening church service or just after work.
Because this is a busy time for all, make drop-in guests feel as welcome as those who can stay longer. Count on extra people—you may be inspired by the Holy Spirit to reach out to the person sitting next to you at church or a needy family you learned about that day. Many people are lonely and need companionship. Consider the widow or widower, the person who just lost a loved one or those far from family. Invite one or more to share in a casual Christmas Eve gathering.
The main menu attraction is soup, also called chowder or gumbo. Some soups or broths can be made in advance and frozen. Place ingredients for other soups in slow cookers early in the day and allow them to gently simmer until savory and ready.
Besides mouthwatering taste and body-warming properties, soup is easy on the host. It stays hot in a slow cooker or a soup tureen placed on a warming tray. Soups stretch to feed a crowd and are relatively inexpensive to make.
Select three to five soup recipes depending on the size of your group. Look for a nice variety with memorable ingredients and flavor. Include soups with smooth and chunky textures, cream and broth bases, meat and vegetarian options and a variety of spice levels. We’ve included three of our favorite recipes, but look to your own family favorites for more options.
Serve the meal on a buffet or side table. Place small bowls, teacups, ramekins or mugs near each soup. If you don’t have enough serving containers, use paper bowls or heat-proof cups. Accompany the soups with crisp vegetables and dip. Also put out some crackers and breads with flavored butter, fruit spreads or nut spreads. Sweeten the night with a tray of dessert cheese and dried fruit or a platter of Christmas cookies with coffee or white hot chocolate.
Hot Chocolate & Coffee *
Bread & Crackers *
Christmas Cookies *
* purchased or family recipes
2 weeks before: Send out invitations via traditional or electronic methods. Ask for an RSVP to help plan quantities. Purchase nonperishable groceries. Make and freeze broth for Sizzling Rice Soup or other broth-based soups. Bake a selection of your favorite Christmas cookies and freeze.
2 days before: Purchase remaining groceries. Clean house. Set the table or buffet. Gather and clean all dishware and linens.
1 day before: For Sizzling Rice Soup, cook rice and refrigerate; thaw broth in the refrigerator. Wash, trim and cut up vegetables for Vegetable Bundles and Sizzling Rice Soup; place separately in zip-close bags and cover with water; refrigerate.
2 hours before: Make Artichoke Aioli; refrigerate. Assemble and tie Vegetable Bundles; refrigerate.
1½ hours before: Make French Onion Soup; keep warm. Prepare breads, crackers, cheese and fruit trays and cover.
1 hour before: Make Clam Chowder; pour into slow cooker set on low to keep warm. Preheat oven to 400°F.
½ hour before: Heat Sizzling Rice Soup broth and add vegetables; fry rice. Fill a few oven-safe bowls with French Onion Soup, top with crusty bread and cheese and bake for 10 minutes.
When guests arrive: Take all foods to the buffet. Ladle Sizzling Rice Soup into tureen; serve rice in a separate bowl. Top bowls of French Onion Soup and bake, as needed. Make and serve hot chocolate. Stir clam chowder occasionally.