The return of cold weather, twinkling lights, and red Starbucks cups herald that the season of giving has begun. For many of us, it's a time to give back to our communities, too. This year, why not make it a party? Get your foodie friends together for a night of cooking to benefit those in need!

Many shelters don't have large enough kitchens to cook large meals, and that's especially a problem during the holidays. But shelters happily accept food made by volunteers in their own homes that can be reheated later in the day.

Plan Your Cooking Party

First, find a local shelter, and arrange in advance for your meal delivery. Ask if there are any dishes that are particularly popular -- casseroles and familiar recipes that aren't too spicy tend to work best. Then pick out a few recipes and ask your friends to chip in for ingredients, or give each a list of things to contribute. You and your friends can cook while listening to music and noshing on finger foods (cocktails and holiday movies are also great ideas). The next morning, take the completed dishes to the shelter. It's that easy to make this a holiday everyone will remember!

Below are a few ideas on recipes to donate as well as party treats for your friends.

Read tips and tricks for cooking for a crowd, including how to get your bakeware back.

Things to Cook for a Crowd

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Photo by smartt

We AR Community: Share your volunteering story with us! You could choose a charity to receive $1,000 from Meredith.

Things to Nibble at Your Party


Things to Sip While Cooking

Photo by Elise
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Photo by MrsFisher0729