Affiliate links may be used in this post. If you click on one and make a purchase, I may receive a small percentage at no extra cost to you. Read my full disclosure policy here.
Soup. Warm, hearty, filling soup! Yum!
For our first fall one-day retreat, I knew I wanted lunch to be comforting, warm, and inviting. It can get chilly here in the Ozarks and since the retreat took place at a campground where we’d be participating in activities both inside and out, there had to be a way for our ladies to warm up after the outdoor sessions. On a brisk fall day, there’s nothing more comforting than a steamy bowl of soup. Because I love a meaty, filling soup, I decided that our main dish for this November retreat would be my mom’s Vegetable Beef Soup. It’s so simple to make that it only takes a couple of minutes to whip up an extra batch without the meat in case any of the attendees prefer vegetarian style.
While this soup can be made on the stove, crockpots worked best for us. We were able to dump all the ingredients in early that morning and have the soup hot and ready by lunch time.
In addition to the soup, we served a cracker plate and also a full salad bar which included various lettuces, broccoli, cauliflower, tomato, bell pepper, dill pickles, cottage cheese, sliced peaches, diced ham, shredded cheddar, hard boiled eggs, and several dressing choices.
Everything on the salad bar is easy to prepare ahead of time or, like us, we have one of the ladies who volunteers to cook for us and a few others who help her (I recruited my husband and daughter) prepare everything right before lunch.
We also offered baked items for dessert. I’ve always been able to find volunteers willing to pitch in and bake up a few things beforehand. Don’t worry about offering tons of options. I’ve learned that the ladies are happy with a few choices as long as there are plenty of those choices to choose!
The soup smelled wonderful which added to the comfort and warm feelings for the ladies as they came into the dining room after their morning breakout sessions. My goal was for every area to be warm and inviting and this soup definitely contributed to make that possible at lunchtime.
Each crock serves about 15. Our fall retreat wasn’t huge and so we made two crockpots full and had some leftover. You can plan accordingly depending on the rest of your menu and how much you want to offer.
As an extra side note, I make this soup for my family of 5, too. It keeps well in the fridge and heats beautifully in the microwave.
Here’s what you need for each crock of soup:
- One crockpot
- 2 lbs. of ground beef (if you make the meatless version, you just leave it out. There’s no need to change anything else in the recipe)
- 1 chopped onion
- 1 pack taco seasoning (I used mild to get the flavor but not make it too spicy since you never know in a large group who might not like spicy)
- 1 large can tomato juice
- 2 large cans Veg All
Fry hamburger and onion, drain and rinse in colander (I cooked mine up the night before so the morning preparation was super easy). Return to frying pan. Add dry packet of taco seasoning and mix (for my meatless crock, I just stirred the taco seasoning into the veggie mixture; it turned out perfectly). Add all ingredients to the crockpot, stir together. Set your crockpot temperature according to your timeframe (I started mine at 8:30 on high for our 12:30 lunch)
Our meals together are one of best times at our retreats. We get a chance to sit and talk face to face, laugh together, and share our lives. As a retreat planner, I appreciate easy to fix and serve meals that are relatively stress free so our mealtime focus can be on each other.
What are some of your favorite easy-to-make meals for large groups?