What to Serve for a Big Reception or Party (specifically, Easter)

I noticed my article What to Serve for Coffee Hour drawing more readers as Easter approached–probably people looking for ideas to make their church coffee hours following the Easter services particularly festive.  I have often taken charge of coordinating my church’s reception after the Easter Vigil (the night before Easter Sunday), and this year’s went particularly well, with the contributions of several parish chefs and the assistance of my extremely helpful eight-year-old Nicholas.  I’m going to explain what we served, where it came from, and where the leftovers went.  This might be useful in planning any kind of party for about 100 people. (We didn’t have that many at the Vigil, but we did on Sunday, and as you’ll see, the food stretched!)

The interesting thing about the Easter Vigil reception is that this festive, late-night party is just one of the events of Holy Week.  Our church commemorates the Last Supper with a simple meal of bread, cheese, fruit, and wine on Maundy Thursday, and the leftovers from that meal can be used in the Vigil reception.  Then, leftovers from the Vigil reception may be suitable for serving at coffee hour after the Easter morning service, when we have a big crowd to feed!  However, we can’t count on specific leftovers, so we have some people sign up to bring food specifically for the Vigil and for Easter morning.

According to the Gospel of Luke, when the resurrected Jesus came to visit his disciples, he said, “Do you have anything to eat?”  I bet if I had just come back from the dead, that would be the first thing on my mind, too!  So when we get to the end of the long Easter Vigil service and “The Lord has risen indeed!  Alleluia!”, I want to make sure to have a good spread.

This year, here’s what we served after the Vigil:

  • Sweet cheese dip with raisins.  This “Easter Cheese” is a traditional Eastern European food for breaking a strict Lenten fast that allows no dairy products.  Helen made a delicious one!  We ate nearly half of it at the Vigil and saved the rest for Sunday.  This spreadable cheese went nicely with
  • Assorted bread from Thursday.  Nancy and Nicholas sliced it into snacky portions (Thursday’s meal involves breaking the bread with our hands, so the leftovers were big irregular chunks) and arranged it in baskets.  Thursday’s food-bringers had been generous with the bread, so there was enough for Easter morning and still enough to make a Cheesy Bread Pudding for my family last night!  In addition to the Easter Cheese, one could top the bread with
  • Assorted cheese from Thursday.  Well, actually, at the Vigil we served just Brie and a nice cheese with dill on the outside, because that’s what Lorien and her friend decided to cut up and arrange, from the approximately 3 pounds of leftover cheese in the fridge.  The cheddar and Swiss and so forth got served on Easter morning, leaving still about a half-pound for my family’s pudding.  Another thing to spread on the bread was
  • Hummus, which I made from instant hummus mix that I had bought in bulk when it was on sale.  I mixed it at home in a Pyrex bowl with lid, because it has a smoother consistency if mixed a few hours before eating.  I made about 3 cups, so there was enough to serve on Easter morning, and I brought home about a half-cup and froze it for later use.  For variety, I also made
  • Pizza hummus.  I was inspired by Whole New Mom’s recipe, but because I happened to have so much hummus mix and also some prepared marinara sauce, I just mixed those ingredients in the blender with water, olive oil, nutritional yeast flakes, and extra basil and oregano.  It was pretty good but needed some sweet pepper and black pepper, in my opinion.  This was more popular than the standard hummus; I brought home only a thickly scrapeable bowl.  For further variety, we also served
  • Curry egg salad.  Dianne made this and said it’s just regular egg salad with yellow curry powder mixed in.  Delicious!  She chopped the eggs very finely for smooth spreading/dipping consistency.  It was gobbled up, particularly by a visiting chorister (his church doesn’t have an Easter Vigil, so he graciously lent his talents to ours) who announced enthusiastically, “Now THIS is a DIP!”  For those who wanted to dip something other than bread, I made a
  • Vegetable tray: broccoli florets, baby carrots, and strips of cucumber and red pepper, beautifully arranged by Nicholas.  I brought home some veggies that I thought would go in our pudding, but Daniel felt like putting peas in it, so we will be eating these veggies sauteed with garlic and cannellini beans over couscous for dinner tonight!  We served one more savory item:
  • Pepperoni rolls, brought by Maria for the Vigil and finished off on Sunday.  We also served
  • Fresh fruit: grapes, strawberries, and clementines from Thursday.  The grape supply was so generous that, even after Sunday’s crowd ate a lot of them, I split the leftovers with several other people.  Nicholas will be having grapes in his lunchbox all week.  I don’t know if fresh fruit was really eaten at the Last Supper (was it in season?) but Thursday’s meal also included plenty of
  • Dried fruit: figs, dates, and cherries.  This, too, was so abundant that I was not the only one bringing home leftovers on Sunday!  This morning I made a cooked fruit sauce with some of the dried fruit, one clementine, and apples I had at home.  Just in case we might not have enough fruit, for the Vigil reception Nancy brought a
  • Fruit tray from the supermarket: honeydew, cantaloupe, grapes, and pineapple.  This reappeared on Sunday with the last few strawberries sliced and added to the arrangement.  I think it all got eaten then.  Last but not least (especially to those who’d given up sugar for Lent!) we had some sweets:
  • Hot cross buns made by Maria.
  • Macaroons brought by Maria.
  • Snickerdoodle cookies made by Dianne.
  • Peanut butter cookies with chocolate kisses made by Dianne.  (They might not seem very Easter-y, but these are one of her specialties.)  The sweets were pretty much gone by the end of Sunday.  Some of us accompanied our refreshments with
  • Ice water, while others enjoyed
  • Red and white wine.  We had two carafes of each left over from Thursday (when cleaning up on Thursday, I simply put sandwich bags over the tops of the carafes and put them in the fridge) and someone brought another bottle of white to the Vigil, and Sam also brought
  • Champagne!

It was quite a party, and almost nothing went to waste, aside from spills and crumbs!  I spent about $18 on vegetables and hummus ingredients, but I brought home leftover food worth more than that, in addition to eating sumptuously at the receptions.  Funny how that works out…

Jesus said, “Give to others, and God will give to you. Indeed, you will receive a full measure, a generous helping, poured into your hands—all that you can hold.”

Luke 6:38 (Good News translation)

It really worked for me!  Visit the Hearth and Soul Blog Hop for more food-related articles!  Visit Waste Not Want Not Wednesday for more ways to use resources wisely!

11 thoughts on “What to Serve for a Big Reception or Party (specifically, Easter)

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