During the summer, having a simple meal that is quick and easy is a bonus. One of the easiest ways to serve a crowd easily is with a taco, potato or nacho bar.Preparation can be done ahead of time to make it easier.

Children can help with the preparation of ingredients as well as with setting up the event. Start with plates and silverware, followed by the main ingredients and toppings.

A taco bar is a fun family meal. For variety, use two or three types of meat.

Taco or Nacho Bar

Taco meat is prepared by frying 1 pound ground beef with 1 cup diced white onion and 1 packet taco seasoning. It can be kept warm in a crockpot until mealtime. Other meats such as shredded chicken or fish may also be included.

Taco/nacho bar ingredients:

Beans (refried or black)

Mexican rice

Hard and soft shell tortillas or nachos

Toppings:

Thinly sliced iceberg lettuce

Sliced tomato

Sliced white onion

Cilantro

Guacamole

Salsa

Sour Cream (the type in a squeeze bottle is best for children)

Different varieties of cheese

Jalapenos

Warming dishes can be used to keep rice and beans warm. Divided dishes or small bowls can be used for talking toppings and a covered dish can be used to keep soft tortillas warm. Taco meat freezes well for use at a later date if there are leftovers.

These ideas are from the dinnermom.com website.

Baked Potato Bar

The easiest way to bake potatoes is in a slow cooker. Wash or scrub the outside of the potato and pat it dry. Poke a fork into the skin on the potato three or four times. Rub a little oil on the outside and sprinkle each potato with salt before packaging each one individually in aluminum foil.

Fill the slow cooker to the top, if necessary, stacking the potatoes on top of each other. A 5-quart slow cooker can hold 14 small potatoes. Baking potatoes such as Idaho or sweet potatoes may be used. Select similar sized potatoes so they finish at the same time. Cook for about 3-4 hours on high or 6-8 hours on low. Larger potatoes take longer to cook and sweet potatoes take less time.

Here are some ideas for toppings to serve on baked potatoes: garlic butter (or substitute), sour cream, cottage cheese, shredded or crumbled cheese (cheddar, feta, goat or pepper jack), bacon, green or red onion, salsa, fresh herbs (cilantro or basil), chili, guacamole, alfredo or marinara sauces, pesto, hummus, chopped ham or shredded chicken, caramelized onions,

Avocado, mushrooms,tomatoes or broccoli.

Baked sweet potatoes can be topped with ingredients, such as yogurt, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, butter, maple syrup, toasted pecans, walnuts and honey.

Top off your taco, nacho or baked potato bar with a dessert bar featuring ice cream and variety of toppings.

Ice Cream Bar

Two or three flavors of ice cream (take out a few minutes to soften before serving)

Hot fudge, caramel and strawberry sauce

A variety of candies (mini M&Ms, sprinkles, mini chocolate chips work especially well)

Shredded coconut, walnuts, cherries, strawberries and blueberries.