Feed your Crew: Dessert for a Large Group

Yum Yum Bars are a favorite dessert when our group travels together!

Yum Yum Bars: Dessert Recipe for Your Large Group

These delicious oatmeal and chocolate bars are a favorite treat during our time together.  The recipe makes a large pan and will feed a large group.  Watch our video here: https://youtu.be/xq5gjhL2G0k

  • For filling
    • 1 pkg. (12 oz.) chocolate chips
    • 1 can (15 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
    • 2 Tbsp. margarine
    • 1/2 tsp. salt
    • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • For bars
    • 1 cup margarine
    • 2 cups brown sugar
    • 2 eggs beaten
    • 2 tsp. vanilla
    • 2 1/2 cups flour
    • 1 tsp. soda
    • 1 tsp. salt
    • 3 cups instant oatmeal

INSTRUCTIONS

  • For filling
    1. Mix together chips, milk, margarine and salt and cook on medium heat until thickened & smooth. (About 2 minutes in the microwave)
    2. Add vanilla. Cool.
  • For bars
    1. Cream sugar and margarine together. Mix in eggs and vanilla. Add flour, baking soda, salt and oatmeal. Dough will be stiff. Use 2/3 of dough to line bottom and sides of jelly roll pan (15 1/2 x 10 1/2 x 1). Pour filling on top and then top with last 1/3 of dough. Bake 20 to 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

Rise and Shine

Meal planning is a big challenge for group trips.  Do you take everyone to a restaurant, wait for seating for a large party and then for everyone’s food to arrive, only to choke when the bill arrives?  Or instead, end up eating at fast food joints to speed up the process and save money, until you realize that French fries are the only vegetable your kids have eaten for a week?  Cooking at your vacation house can often solve these problems, but food prep and cleanup isn’t often on people’s list of must-dos on a holiday.

From the start, our group has cooked at the house for most, if not all of our meals.  In the beginning, cooking seemed like a decent trade off for not having to keep 4 or 5 babies and toddlers busy at every meal for 5 or 6 days.  Plus, with 4 families, kitchen duties have always been split between the adults, and now, between the older kids.  For years, our teens have been baking cookies and quick breads to bring along before the trip.  Last year, our tweens baked strawberry shortcake for dessert one night!  And the kids all help with clean-up since we long ago established the rule that you load your own dishes in the dishwasher after each meal.

 

Of course, breakfast is by far the easiest meal to adapt for a group trip.  Even if you are planning to eat out for lunch and dinner, you can save time and money by eating the first meal of the day at your vacation home.  It’s also easy to adjust for dietary preferences and restrictions.  Plus, people can eat while others are getting ready to head out for the day.

Breakfast planning for our group usually includes a mix of items people can grab and eat quickly, as well as hardier fare for mornings when we have more flexibility in the schedule.  Grocery list staples are cereals, milk, fruit, juice and toast.  These can be the whole offering on mornings when we have to make an early departure, or can be eaten by picky eaters who don’t want to eat whatever hot dish is being served that morning.

Egg casseroles and overnight french toast are favorites with our group.  These are generally easy to scale depending on group size and easy to adjust based on the ingredients you have on hand.  You bought an extra dozen eggs?  Just add them in.  Someone drank the last of the milk but we have extra half-and-half.  That works!  Leftover onions from tonight’s burgers?  Chop those babies up and mix them into one pan of egg casserole.  Additionally, while things like scrambled eggs don’t make great leftovers, breakfast casseroles generally reheat well, making breakfast prep lighter on future mornings.

We make breakfast casseroles in the evening and throw them in the fridge in disposable foil pans.  We buy these pans in bulk because it makes clean up so much easier.  No scraping baked-on egg off a glass pan!  Because who wants to do that much work on vacation??  Plus they usually come with lids, although stacking more than one pan in a crowded fridge can become a problem as the pans are sometimes pretty flimsy.  Stacking cookie sheets between them can help.  

Breakfast prep has become a personal favorite time for me since we often drag the kids into helping.  Many of them seem to enjoy this time as they all look forward to eating their handiwork in the morning.  Lots of fun conversations are started while everyone is chopping ham and cracking eggs.  The next morning, the first person out of bed turns on the oven and pops the casseroles in to bake.  One added benefit is the scents wafting through the house help rouse sleepy-heads.  

Pancakes are another item that often appears on our menu since Costco has big bags of pancake mix.  You will need a larger griddle to make this work though.  You can check with your vacation home owner to see if the house has one already.  If we are driving to our destination, one or two families will bring along our personal griddles as well.  They come in handy and it helps to have more than one griddle cooking when you have to feed lots of people.  We’ve even used one griddle in the kitchen for pancakes and a second one outside on the deck to make bacon or sausage and still keep the smell out of the house.

Breakfast sliders are a newer addition to our menu, but these are easy and fun to make.  The kids can help with this since most of the work is piling toppings onto rolls.  We usually make ours with ham, cheese and scrambled eggs, but you could mix it up with different meats or veggies.

With a little planning and some teamwork, you can start your day off right with a good breakfast!

Here are some recipes we use:

 

Overnight Egg Casserole

8 slices bread (we often use more), toasted (or not) and cubed

4 cups diced ham

2 cups grated cheese

8 eggs (or more), beaten

2 cups milk

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper

Put cubed bread in a 9×13 pan.  Top with meat and cheese.  Combine eggs, milk, salt and pepper and pour over top.  Put in fridge overnight.  Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.  Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.  Optional: Feel free to play with the recipe.  Chop up veggies or exchange sausage or bacon for the ham.  Try different cheeses or use sourdough or a hearty multigrain bread.  Serves 15.

 

Creme Brulee French Toast

I got this recipe off a morning news show probably 15 years ago.  It’s been a well loved staple for several groups ever since.

½ cup butter

1 cup brown sugar

2 Tablespoons corn syrup

1 large loaf sourdough bread

5 eggs

1 ½ cups half and half

1 teaspoon vanilla

Melt butter with brown sugar and corn syrup, stirring until smooth.  Pour this mixture into a 9×13 pan.   Cut the bread into 1 to 2 inch slices and place in a single layer over the sugar/butter mixture (okay, here is where we improvise:  we usually use thicker slices and squeeze them in to get as much bread in the pan as possible.  Sometimes if we have extra bread, we use two layers).  Whisk together the eggs, half and half and vanilla until combined well and pour over the bread, trying to soak the top of each piece.  You may want to mix up more eggs and half and half, or just add a little milk to keep it from drying out.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake French toast, uncovered, until puffed and edges are golden, 35 to 40 minutes.  To serve, cut into squares and lift with a spatula onto a plate, flipping over so the caramel goodness is on the top.  Serves 6 to 8.

 

Breakfast Sliders

24 Hawaiian sweet rolls

1 lb sliced ham

2 cups shredded cheese

1 dozen eggs

½ cup milk

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

2 Tablespoons maple syrup

2 Tablespoons butter

 

Carefully cut the rolls in half, cutting the entire package at once.  Reserve the tops and place the bottoms in a 9×13 pan.  Top the bottom rolls with ham.  Beat the eggs and add the milk, salt and pepper.  Scramble the eggs until cooked through.  Layer the scrambled eggs over the ham and top with cheese, then the tops of the rolls.  Melt the syrup and butter together in the microwave, then brush over tops of rolls.  Bake in a 350 degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes until the cheese is melted and sliders are warmed through.  Serves 8 to 10.

 

WTF?….Not what you are thinking!

We are closing in on the point where half of the children in our group will be teenagers, and with that some questions take on more importance. One of those questions is : WTF? You know, short for “Where’s the Food?” Food is always important and maybe more so when considering group travel! There are many things to consider regarding food for your group travel. Our top tip is: preparation goes a long way! Aside from picking a destination and accommodations, we probably spend the most time discussing food prior to each trip.

Pick an approach first. It may be tempting to say that you don’t want to mess with cooking and you will just eat out on your vacation or just wing it once you are there. These may be great options for your group, but even this requires some level of planning.

Questions to think about if considering eating out or figuring out food on the fly
  • What will the cost be and how does it fit into my overall travel budget?
  • Does my destination area have sufficient restaurant/fast food options that fit the tastes and/or dietary restrictions of my group?
  • Will the size of my group or the time of year I am traveling restrict my ability to find seating in restaurants?
  • How close is the nearest supermarket? Are there other options (farmer’s markets, co-ops, etc.) to enjoy local flavor?
  • How much time should I plan for eating out and/or food shopping each day?

While we typically eat out a time or two on our trips, we have found that preparing our own food works best for our group.

Considerations for planning and preparing your own food
  • What appliances can I count on in at my accommodations? Meal prep in a hotel room is much different than in a vacation rental!
  • What are the dietary restrictions and/or limitations in my group?
  • How much time do I need to count on for preparing food each day?
  • Will everyone plan a meal(s) or will this be done as a group?
  • Will everyone bring groceries or will this be done as a group?
  • How will extra food be used or disposed of at the end of the trip?

Over the years, we have found that planning a menu before the trip and doing a large grocery shop upon arrival works best for us. We understand that this “big shop” is going to come with a price tag that may invoke gasps, but actually works out to be very economical per person per day.

We will devote an upcoming post (or posts!) to menu planning and preparation. As you contemplate what is right for your group, please remember that food will be an important part of your trip! Your planning will go a very long way in making sure the dining experience is part of your positive memories!