Smart Shopping: Game Plan for Entertaining

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Shopping for your week's groceries is always a puzzle. How do you get everything you need in one shot and avoid midweek runs for forgotten items? Here are some tips from the Food Network Kitchens.

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Are you entertaining for the holidays or a special family dinner? Here are some protein ideas that you can tackle ahead of time. Think about large cuts of meat you can cook in the oven or slow cooker.

  • Pot roast: Always a crowd-pleaser. Rich, succulent beef, cooked for many hours that falls apart with the touch of a fork. A great cut to throw in your slow cooker to save oven space, as well.
  • Turkeys and hams: Classics. So many variations, all delicious. And usually enough to feed at least a dozen people with leftovers for sandwiches the next day.
  • Ribs: Not often thought of as holiday fare, but perfect for entertaining, especially a crowd. Who doesn’t love ribs? And because they come in large slabs, they work very well in this situation.

We’ve talked big-batch items and meats, so now let’s talk about what produce to throw into your cart to make up easy sides:

  • Root vegetables: Potatoes, beets, carrots, parsnips and winter squashes are all perfect for cutting into uniform pieces, tossing in olive oil, salt and pepper and roasting on a sheet tray in the oven. Hearty and filling, yet simple and elegant; great for a crowd. If it’s spring or summertime, choose asparagus, zucchini or yellow squash.
  • Cabbage: Cabbage is the never-ending vegetable. Shred up a whole green or red cabbage, and you can make a bottomless bowl of coleslaw (make it the day before to save yourself time; it just gets better overnight). Or braise a couple of shredded cabbages in apple cider vinegar for a hearty, comforting side dish to a braised meat.
  • Braising greens: Perfect for stovetop side dishes, these greens can be cooked in a large, shallow pot for hours. Try collards, kale, mustard greens or even chard, with a little rendered bacon fat, some vinegar and a diced chile for kick. Remember: Greens cook down because they have high water content, so buy more than you think you need.
  • Salad stuff: Arranged salads are a great way to serve a crowd. On a large platter, arrange a bed of greens (romaine, arugula, spinach, whatever you like best) and then top with a variety of classic salad ingredients; this way, picky eaters can choose the toppings they like best and everyone is happy. So, add a couple bags of lettuce to your cart, maybe some baby cherry tomatoes, crumbled blue or goat cheese, slivered almonds or chopped walnuts; get creative. And serve your dressing on the side so the salad doesn’t get soggy.