Bridal shower for 30 at home? No problem with these make ahead recipes.

Dear Cooks:

I have offered to host a bridal shower for my sister at my house and I would like to have a casual lunch on a Saturday or Sunday, but I don’t want to spend the whole time in the kitchen. Plus, I’m on  budget. Do you have any recipes that are economical, you can make ahead, and that feed a crowd of 30 or so? Oh, and they should taste good too:-).


Cindy S.

Dear Cindy S.:

You are absolutely right, the last thing you want to be doing when you are hosting a party is to spend time away from your guests, plus you end up missing out on most of the fun. Here are three salad recipes sure to please, all of which can be made the night before – you can prep the chopped salad and dressing the night before but will have to assemble just prior to serving. No need for a fussy dessert – make a few easy yet classic cookie recipes the afternoon before (you can even make and freeze the cookies up to two weeks before – just pull them out of the freezer to defrost that morning) to pass some assorted cookie trays (we like chocolate chip cookies, lace cookies, and lemon squares – recipes below), and warm up some store-bought Naan bread and you’re in business. Good luck!

Sweet and Spicy Black Bean Salad (from Simply Classic: The Junior League of Seattle cookbook)

serves 30 as a side


(6)  15-ounce cans black beans, drained and rinsed

4 1/2 cups corn, fresh or frozen, thawed

3 cups celery, diced

3 red peppers, diced

3 fresh jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced

1 1/2 cups fresh cilantro, minced

For the dressing:

1/2 cup fresh lime juice

1/2 cup canola oil

4 tablespoons brown sugar

2  tablespoons Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon kosher salt (plus more to taste)

1 teaspoon pepper (plus more to taste)


For the dressing:

Combine lime juice through pepper in a jar with a lid and shake until well-blended. Set aside.

For the salad:

Mix beans through cilantro in a shallow bowl. Reserve 1/4 cup of the dressing. Pour remaining dressing over bean mixture and toss to coat. Add salt and pepper as needed. Cover and chill at least one hour and up to one day. Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes prior to serving and taste again for seasonings – add more salt and pepper if needed. Add remaining dressing if needed.

Couscous Chicken Salad (from Simply Classic: The Junior League of Seattle cookbook)

Serves 30 as a side dish


12 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and cut into bite-sized pieces

8 cups chicken stock

4 cups couscous

2 tomatoes, chopped

6 scallions, thinly sliced

(2) 15-ounce cans garbanzo beans, drained

1 red pepper, diced

1 yellow pepper, diced

1 cup dried currants

1/2 cup parsley, minced

For the dressing:

1 cup fresh lemon juice

3/4 cup olive oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon curry powder

1/2 teaspoon Tabasco

salt and pepper

1 cup toasted pine nuts or nuts of your choice (I actually used pistachios because the pine nuts were too expensive)


Cook couscous according to package directions, using chicken stock instead of water for the cooking liquid. At end of cooking time, fluff couscous with a fork and spread couscous on a baking sheet to cool. Place chopped chicken in a bowl with tomato through parsley. For the dressing, place lemon juice through tabasco in a jar and shake to blend. Season with salt and pepper.

Add dressing to couscous mixture and toss well – don’t pour it all on at once but dress to your liking – you will have dressing left over. Refrigerate at least one hour and up to one day. When ready to serve, take salad out of fridge 30 minutes to one hour prior to serving. Recheck for seasonings and dressing, and sprinkle with nuts just prior to serving.

Chop Chop Salad (from Simply Classic: The Junior League of Seattle cookbook)

Serves 30 as a side dish


3 hearts of romaine lettuce, chopped

10 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped

1 red pepper, chopped

1 yellow pepper, chopped

2 cups each diced salami, mozzarella cheese, and smoked turkey breast

2 cups canned garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed

1 cup scallions, thinly sliced

For the dressing:

1 cup red wine vinegar

4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

6 cloves minced garlic

4 teaspoons dried oregano

2 teaspoons pepper

1 teaspoon Kosher salt

1 teaspoon sugar

3/4 cup olive oil


Make the dressing: Place vinegar through sugar in a blender or food processor and blend for 30 seconds. Slowly drizzle in olive oil, blending until emulsified. Set dressing aside.

Combine salad ingredients in a large bowl (or bowls) and toss to mix. Toss with dressing to taste just prior to serving. Serve immediately.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Aunt Missy’s Lace Cookies

Lemon Squares

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