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Cooking for 26!


jrshaul
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With lots of sour cream and root vegetables you could try this side dish (skipping the chicken stock to keep it vegetarian friendly). Frankly, I think it makes a meal with a salad.

If time isn't an issue, perogies filled with potato and cheese are very inexpensive and delicious topped with sour cream and loads of fried onions (+ bacon for carnivores). If you have freezer storage they are something you could make in advance then boil from frozen.

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Perogies are very nice, but I'm somewhat limited by time. Preparing them for 26 is somewhat beyond me.

I've never made paneer before, but I recently found some instructions that show several pounds prepared very quickly. The recipe seems to scale well, too. Has anyone tried this?

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You didn't mention these ingredients in the pantry, but do you have:

pasta?

beans?

any grains?

All of these are highly variable, which makes the whole affair something of a headache. Aside from processed cornmeal and all-purpose flour, there's whatever pasta is currently available and miscellaneous dried beans of unknown cultivar. Quinoa and similar grains are a rarity, I suspect mostly due to price.

Do you have to do a vegan option, or just vegetarian? I have a couple of ideas that could work, but not if you must do a vegan version.

Vegetarian, thankfully. There's one hardcore vegan, but she generally just eats toast and salads.

In that case, I'd probably spend the $13 on some leafy, winter greens (kale, collards, chard etc.) and some garlic/onions if you don't have any. Improvise a bean soup of some kind, then wilt and slow cook the greens with either the soup, polenta or pasta. If you want to get some kind of meat in there, cured pork like bacon is probably going to be your best bet in terms of making people feel like there's something substantial there.

PS: I am a guy.

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Thanks for all the tips, everyone. I've actually been informed that the budget is even smaller than I thought, and all of your tips are extremely welcome. (Here's hoping they buy more lentils!)

A few more things I'd appreciate:

1. Suggestions for the best cheap brands of useful ingredients, especially:

-Anchovies

-Thai chili pastes

-Sweet soy sauce (haven't used it before, but people say I should)

2. A really good vegetarian black bean chili. I've had a lot of very poor black bean chili.

3. I'm not much of a baker. More importantly, I've never made anything in sheet-pan sizes. Any tips on making cornbread for a small platoon?

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I hope that CaliPoutine checks in on this - she did large meals on a tight budget and they were wonderful! If she doesn't - you should PM her. And look at her thread where she posted all the meals and issues involved: click.. I'm sure you'll get lots of help, but that's the first thing I thought of.

Hi,

Sorry, I'm studying for the bar exam so I havent been on eG that much( I'm taking a little break at the moment). Yes, I have a rather large thread. I had a lot of challenges because I cooked for a bunch of ungrateful senior citizens in a very small town in SW Ontario. They wanted meat and potatoes every single time. I did manage to cook some other things that they liked. My budget was 3.00 per person, then it was raised to 3.50. I almost always made it, sometimes going under. I shopped a few different stores though, putting in way more time than I was actually paid for. If you have any questions, feel free to ask.

TammyLC also has a thread. She cooked for 40, in a cooperative housing complex.

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Wow. Budget of less than 50 cents a head. That is seriously limiting. But then again a weeks worth of meals for less than $5 seems like quite a bargain. Do your members all eat there daily like clockwork... or is there a certain amount of attrition at every meal? How do you deal with leftovers? Is each meal a bit of a smorgasboard of what has been made in the past few days, or is it a no choice, eat what you're served system with a leftover day every few days?

Christopher D. Holst aka "cdh"

Learn to brew beer with my eGCI course

Chris Holst, Attorney-at-Lunch

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I did manage to cook some other things that they liked. My budget was 3.00 per person, then it was raised to 3.50. I almost always made it, sometimes going under. I shopped a few different stores though, putting in way more time than I was actually paid for. If you have any questions, feel free to ask.

Thanks for the help!

What's your favorite thing to do with potatoes?

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3. I'm not much of a baker. More importantly, I've never made anything in sheet-pan sizes. Any tips on making cornbread for a small platoon?

Cornbread, fortunately, is a very forgiving thing. For 26, I'd ballpark it at -- 4 cups cornmeal, 2 cups flour, 2 tbsp baking powder, 2 tsp. salt, 1/2 cup oil or bacon fat or melted butter (personally, I do not believe one can successfully make cornbread without bacon fat, but that's just me), and enough milk to make the batter the consistency you want it. (I never measure when I'm making cornbread, so the above is an approximation.)

Grease and heat the pan before pouring the cornbread in. Bake at about 400 F until golden brown.

Edited by kayb (log)

Don't ask. Eat it.

www.kayatthekeyboard.wordpress.com

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I'd be inclined to agree with the bacon fat, but the vegans would kill me. (Apparently, their policy only applies to non-humans.) No one else really does cornbread, so it should go over really well.

I've never made non-instant polenta. I'm told it scales well in quantity. Any thoughts on how best to prepare it? Maybe as an entree?

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Just tell them it was vegetable fat if they ask. I would. And I do not mean this as a joke. It's not like it's some honest-to-God allergy thing that actually justifies the adulteration of food.

Chris Taylor

Host, eG Forums - ctaylor@egstaff.org

 

I've never met an animal I didn't enjoy with salt and pepper.

Melbourne
Harare, Victoria Falls and some places in between

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Just tell them it was vegetable fat if they ask. I would. And I do not mean this as a joke. It's not like it's some honest-to-God allergy thing that actually justifies the adulteration of food.

One of them, apparently, quits the veganism as soon as she goes on vacation. Can't be bothered.

Edited by jrshaul (log)
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Just tell them it was vegetable fat if they ask. I would. And I do not mean this as a joke. It's not like it's some honest-to-God allergy thing that actually justifies the adulteration of food.

Or, just use actual vegetable oil. There's a noticeable flavor difference but it's not large.

PS: I am a guy.

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I'm still stuck on the <0.50/person. I'm not sure that there's any way to get enough calories and especially protein spending that little even three times a day. So your housemates either are spending much more during the day or are very effective moochers. If they are spending more then they should reconsider raising the limit for dinner. After all you can always cook cheaper at home and in volume than you can buy prepared food.

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I'm still stuck on the <0.50/person. I'm not sure that there's any way to get enough calories and especially protein spending that little even three times a day. So your housemates either are spending much more during the day or are very effective moochers. If they are spending more then they should reconsider raising the limit for dinner. After all you can always cook cheaper at home and in volume than you can buy prepared food.

I'm with gfweb. I don't get it.

Count me in the same crowd. What's the rationale for such a low budget? A dollar per person would be a challenge but doable to make nutritious, if austere, food. Half that and you're talking heaps of potatoes, rice, or pasta barely dressed up at all.

Andy Arrington

Journeyman Drinksmith

Twitter--@LoneStarBarman

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I'm with gfweb. I don't get it.

I have been biting my tongue here, wondering if I should say something. I have never heard of a food coop like this. One of my good friends, who is vegetarian, was part of her college food coop for years and her experience sounds nothing like yours. The students had a well-equipped kitchen suitable for prepping meals for a large number; they had rotating committees to do all the cooking and chores, including shopping and ordering foodstuffs; people cooked meals in crews, so nobody was stuck with too much work. In fact, cooking together was fun for the students and the more experienced cooks taught the less experienced cooks. Certainly their kitchen was stocked with basic foodstuffs like pasta, beans, and grains.

I hope the suggestions and recipes here can help you. But your budget and resources are so limited I am concerned that you and the other students will even be eating decently. It's possible to do OK on rice and legumes with a very limited budget, but that takes knowledge and dedication to cook the food well and keep it interesting over time. Your coop's setup sounds, to say the least, haphazard.

Good food for 26 people requires basic foodstuffs, basic equipment, and preferably helping hands to get dinner on the table. Correct me if I'm wrong, but it sounds like you're supposed to do this entire dinner yourself with very limited resources. I don't get it either.

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The pantry in this case includes a generous cache of root vegetables and irregular produce deliveries. There's also milk, supermarket cheese, yogurt, tofu eggs, and for some unknown reason, huge quantities of sour cream. Groceries are purchased in bulk and somewhat irregularly, which is why I'm saving all of these recipes; I have to combine what's on hand with the $13 budget. Most co-op members live in a sort of hippie dorm, hence the unusual cooking arrangements.

It's a bit like a low-rent Iron Chef.

I'd definitely plan on some sort of soup with all those root vegetables. You could easily change it up according to what's on hand. And get some sort of powdered vegetable soup stock to add for flavor. I'd probably buy a tub of Knorr's Mexican Chicken base, but if you go with vegetable stock, that could always count for your vegetarian option.

If all you have to buy with your $13 is some sort of protein, you can't go wrong with those chicken thighs. And get a bag of rice and a bag of beans and a bag of onions.

You say you've got a nice French lady making bread. Be sure nobody tosses the bread when it goes stale. Lots of things you can do with stale bread. Canned salmon, for instance, is pretty cheap and you can stretch two or three cans with bread crumbs, eggs, celery.

I'm assuming you only have to take a "turn," right, say once a week or something? Or, as others have suggested, is this all up to you for an extended period?

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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I did manage to cook some other things that they liked. My budget was 3.00 per person, then it was raised to 3.50. I almost always made it, sometimes going under. I shopped a few different stores though, putting in way more time than I was actually paid for. If you have any questions, feel free to ask.

Thanks for the help!

What's your favorite thing to do with potatoes?

I love baked potatoes with various toppings. For the seniors, they LOVED my scalloped potatoes. Cook onions in some butter with a little thyme and garlic. Add 7-8 russet potatoes, sliced( peeling not necessary). Add 3 cups of chicken stock and 3 cups of half and half( supposed to use heavy cream). Simmer for about 20 min, throw into a pan add shredded cheese and bake.

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What's more, the low budget forces you to get cheap starchy food (as Thirtyoneknots said), perhaps the least nutritious diet.

This is true, but if the pantry is already stocked with "a generous cache of root vegetables and irregular produce deliveries. There's also milk, supermarket cheese, yogurt, tofu eggs, and for some unknown reason, huge quantities of sour cream" I think a nutritious meal is doable. When you say "irregular produce deliveries" just how irregular are we talking? A couple times a week, or a couple times a month?

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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Yeah, if the pantry is pretty well stocked with dairy, eggs, tofu, veggies, beans, rice, pasta and flour you don't need much else to make a decent meal. I think what this boils down to is that the menu needs to be created around the pantry items with the small amount of money reserved for "flavor enhancers" like ham, bacon, butter, spices, etc.

You can make simple meals like: chili with cornbread, frittata with bean soup, mac n cheese with roasted veggies, maybe even chicken pot pie if chicken legs are cheap.

Edited by sheetz (log)
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I apologize for being a broken record, but I could really use a vegetarian black bean chili recipe. Most of what I've had is pretty bad, and I'd like a tested recipe before I make a huge pot of it. It's one of the few things I can guarantee being present.

In further news, I've been informed that the budget is actually $10/meal. On the plus side, I can use up to $20 on one meal so long as it averages to $10. I'd like to make something guaranteed (maybe a tofu stir-fry) on one night, and use all $20 to buy meat on the other. On the plus side, I now own a cheap stand mixer (not sharing!) and am looking at building a great big sous-vide bath for cooking pork.

I'm with gfweb. I don't get it.

Yeah, if the pantry is pretty well stocked with dairy, eggs, tofu, veggies, beans, rice, pasta and flour you don't need much else to make a decent meal. I think what this boils down to is that the menu needs to be created around the pantry items with the small amount of money reserved for "flavor enhancers" like ham, bacon, butter, spices, etc.

You can make simple meals like: chili with cornbread, frittata with bean soup, mac n cheese with roasted veggies, maybe even chicken pot pie if chicken legs are cheap.

In a word, this. There's regular food deliveries in addition to the $10 budget, from which I may use whatever I like. However, the variety is limited, and not all ingredients are available at all times. Making cornbread, black bean soup, or dal using ingredients on hand is a given; however, if I want to include meat, fresh spices, quality cheese, or anything else unusual I have $13 to spend. It doesn't actually make an awful lot of sense or work particularly efficiently, but it's the way things are.

I have been biting my tongue here, wondering if I should say something. I have never heard of a food coop like this. One of my good friends, who is vegetarian, was part of her college food coop for years and her experience sounds nothing like yours. The students had a well-equipped kitchen suitable for prepping meals for a large number; they had rotating committees to do all the cooking and chores, including shopping and ordering foodstuffs; people cooked meals in crews, so nobody was stuck with too much work. In fact, cooking together was fun for the students and the more experienced cooks taught the less experienced cooks. Certainly their kitchen was stocked with basic foodstuffs like pasta, beans, and grains.

In theory, this is the case, and several other co-ops in the area do (I'm told) function in much this way. However, the majority of those living at the co-op are only visiting for a semester, and the whole affair is somewhat shoddy. Vegetable deliveries are on a "When she gets around to it" basis, cooking is done by whoever is unlucky (or mad) enough to be assigned it in a sort of 5-hour marathon, and the kitchen hasn't been updated or repaired since the Bush administration. The first one.

It beats eating frozen burritos, though. Cheaper, too.

Out of curiosity, what have other co-op members cooked before on such a budget?

I've so far only been visiting as a guest, but the list includes the following:

-Pasta with mild bechamel sauce

-Pasta with marinara sauce

-Vegan gluten-free gumbo. (I helped with this one. I learned that people have a much lower seasoning tolerance than your average Louisiana resident. I could barely taste it.)

-Pao de quejo (required purchase of tapioca flour, used on-hand white cheese)

-Potato/sweet potato/ham casserole thing with sour cream. I can't actually spell the name in Finnish.

-Not very good stir-fry. I'm not very good at it myself, but I've been practicing. The suggestion of blanching vegetables in water with a little baking soda makes a big difference.

-Chicken with rosemary and potatoes. The spuds took forever because they weren't par-boiled.

Chicken legs and thighs, especially the cheap ones, often are quite greasy if you leave the skin on. I've had good luck grilling the same meat, though. What do eGulleters think about propping a mesh cookie rack over a pan and letting the grease drain into it?

Edited by jrshaul (log)
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I apologize for being a broken record, but I could really use a vegetarian black bean chili recipe.

I made this black bean chili only once, and it was delicious. You'll have to omit the steak, of course. The chili should still taste good. Serve it over rice.

http://home.sprynet.com/~rjstevenson/cooking/sirloin_black_bean_chili.html

Thanks for answering our questions and concerns.

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