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tammylc

Dinner for 40

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One of the major lessons I learned is to take into account the skill of my assistant cooks.  Yes, there were a lot of veggies to be chopped, but it took them much longer to chop them than I thought it would, just because they didn't have the same level of knife skills that I have.  That had the biggest impact on timing that I could see.  So I might take that into account and delegate tasks differently in the future.

Would it be feasible to give a few basic lessons on cooking techniques to the assistants? They might enjoy it, and it would make their learning process (and the cooking process) faster.

Interesting idea. It's not something I'd feel comfortable doing - we're all adults, none of us are professionals, and I just doesn't feel right. I certainly didn't feel comfortable giving suggestions to my assistants yesterday.

But bringing in an outsider to teach a "Kitchen Skills for Cohousers" class that included some bulk cooking techniques and knife skills could be a neat thing. Hey Malawry - if you do end up visiting this summer, maybe we could convince you to jump in the kitchen for a couple hours and teach us all a thing or too...

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So what have other people been making? Have separate items been prepared for the kids or are people expecting them to eat the grown up food? I'd love for you to keep up this thread, letting us know how the co-housing meals are progressing (or not).

Meals I remember from last week:

Monday: Cincinnati chili

Tuesday: Baked chicken breasts and stuffing, assorted veggies as sides

Thursday: Chicken ratatouille with pasta

Coming up this week:

Tonight: Pasta again - this time with pesto and roasted red peppers

Tomorrow: Some marinated tempeh thing with various sides

On pasta nights most people leave some plain for the kids. The chicken and stuffing guy didn't do anything special. One of our members came up with the great idea of having a "picky eater" shelf and fridge. This has a bunch of quick and easy to prepare items that kids and picky eaters can choose from if they don't want the main meal. So that takes some of the pressure off of always making a kid friendly alternative.

I think it's a mistake to cater to the kids too much. The easiest thing to prepare is plain pasta which almost every kid will happily eat, but if the family is trying to use the common meal program a lot, then I'd worry about their kid getting undernourished! At least at home the parents would be making sure they got some protein by giving them fish sticks or chicken fingers or hot dogs or cheese or something...

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I'm already planning for my next time on deck, a week from tomorrow.

I'm making a Morroccan Chick Pea and Carrot Stew, served with couscous. At home I used canned chick peas, but I'm planning to boil these up from dry, since I'll need so many, and it will be much cheaper! I'm planning to do that Sunday afternoon and just store them cooked in the fridge until Tuesday.

There's a bunch of veggie chopping involved again - carrots and onions and cilantro. But other than that, it's a really, really easy recipe and very quick to prepare.

I'm trying to figure out the couscous. At home, I just combine equal parts couscous and water, let stand five minutes, then fluff with a fork. That works for 1-2 cups of couscous, but obviously I'm going to need more. Since we serve family style, I was thinking I could use my regular method and just prepare enough couscous for the table in the bowl I'm planning to serve it in - I'm thinking 2 cups dried coucous for 8 people, which would be 1/2 cup cooked per person. But if anyone has any suggestions for cooking a large quantity of coucous, I'd like to hear it.

The other thing I'm curious about is how to adapt spice levels. I know that you don't just triple or quadruple spices when converting a recipe, but I don't know what ratios I should use. The main spices in the recipe are cinnamon, tumeric, cumin and cayenne, IIRC.

Any thoughts on either of these questions?

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I was on duty as head cook again last night. The menu was Moroccan Cabbage and Orange Salad, Moroccan Chick Pea and Carrot Stew and Banana Cake for dessert. I had intended to serve the stew with couscous, but the cooks from the previous night had made way too much rice, so I just used their leftovers instead.

I was very proud of my food costs for this meal. Using almost entirely organic ingredients, I fed 30 adults and 7 children (although the children mostly ate out of the back up "picky eater" cabinet, so I really can't count them) for less than $50 total (plus my 10% pantry fee, so call it at most $55).

Here's the quantities:

Cabbage and Orange Salad

2 heads green cabbage, shredded (organic)

12 oranges, cut into segments (organic)

1 c raisins (organic)

2 lemons, juiced - about 1/2 c (organic)

1 1/4 c orange juice (Tropicana not from concentrate that I brought from home)

Salt, sugar, cinnamon from the pantry

Carrot and Chick Pea Stew

2 pounds dried chick peas, which I soaked overnight on Saturday and cooked on Sunday, when I had the time. (organic)

5 onions, diced(organic, from the pantry)

3 lbs carrots, sliced (organic)

2 bunches cilantro, minced (organic)

Turmeric and Cayenne (organic)

Canola oil (organic), cinnamon, salt from the pantry

Banana Cake

4 bananas (bought as "overripe" for 29 cents/lb)

3/4 lb butter (organic)

1 1/2 c milk (no hormones, but not organic)

6 eggs (free range)

Sugar, flour, baking soda, baking powder, vanilla (organic) from the pantry

Cream Cheese Frosting

1/4 lb butter (organic)

8 oz cream cheese (organic)

1 lb powdered sugar (organic)

Vanilla (organic) from the pantry

I had just the right amount of food - there weren't any leftovers (besides a little bit of cake) and everyone seemed to get enough to eat. Feedback was good. I was a little worried, because it turned out spicier than I had expected. I used less than 1/2 tsp of cayenne for the entire pot (the regular size recipe calls for 1/4 to 1/2 tsp, and I was roughly multiplying by five), and it still turned out to be noticeably spicy. But no one complained, and at least the people at my table appreciated the little bit of kick.

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What lives in the picky eater cabinet?

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Instant oatmeal, peanut butter and jelly, applesauce, cheese - I'm not sure what else, since I'm not a picky eater.

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Basically the same stuff left out on bakers' racks for the girls in my sorority...it's supposed to be snackage and breakfast food but some of them eat it at dinnertime if they're nervous about what's on the menu. (Fortunately, most of them trust me and at least try my food.)

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I really appreciate this thread. I cook for 30-40 Senior Citizens at my church monthly. Rachel and FG have given me some great ideas. My budget is also limited and its a challenge for me, because cooking is my hobby.

Tammy, please keep it going.

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I really appreciate this thread. I cook for 30-40 Senior Citizens at my church monthly. Rachel and FG have given me some great ideas. My budget is also limited and its a challenge for me, because cooking is my hobby.

Tammy, please keep it going.

Nice to know someone's reading...

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People were slow to sign up for the meal I posted for Wednesday, so I was thinking that I would have a very big group to cook for. But I was mistaken. I have 21 meat eaters, 15 vegetarians, 4 big kids (7-12) and 7 little kids (0-7). 36 adults, 11 children. Yowza.

The menu is pretty ambitious. Not because the individual items are especially complicated, but just because there's a bunch of them. I have a strong feeling I'm going to regret this...

Main Course

Falafel (for the vegetarians)

Marinated Chicken Breat (for the meat eaters)

Side dishes

Hummus

Tabouli

Yogurt & Cucumber Salad

Pita bread

I'm allocating 3 falafels per vegetarian and 1/4 lb of chicken per meat eater. For the side dishes, I'm making the amount that Moosewood Cooks for a Crowd says will feed 24 people, since there are three side dishes. And two pieces of pita bread per person. I'm hoping to find someplace to buy a bunch of baklava for dessert, without spending a mint. Does this sound like enough food? Too much?

Thinking out loud... I really should have been soaking chick peas tonight, so I could cook them tomorrow night. I might end up biting the bullet and buying canned, just to save the time - my schedule is busy this week. The tabouli will take the longest to make - while the bulghur soaks, I'll get my assistants to work on chopping the veggies and juicing the lemons for it. Meanwhile, I'll do hummus - cause that's going to be pretty easy, but will need lots of tasting to get the ratios right. Yogurt and cucumber salad after the tabouli is done. I'll start marinating the chicken tomorrow night. That and the falafel will need to go in the ovens about 5:30, which gives them a half hour to cook, and 15 minutes for us to get them plated.

Anybody have any thoughts to share?

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Only that I wish I could drop by for supper!!!

How are you cooking your chix breasts? Breasts are hard to keep moist if making ahead, and 20 plus breasts sounds (to me) like quite a few unless you've got several pans going. Maybe you're baking them?

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Only that I wish I could drop by for supper!!!

How are you cooking your chix breasts? Breasts are hard to keep moist if making ahead...

Brine brine brine brine Brine brine brine brine Brine! Wonderful brine!

(sung to the tune of Monty Python's "Spam, wonderful Spam!"

Paul

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I'm not intending a full breast per person - gotta keep costs down, and there's plenty of other food! So I'll probably buy 6 or 7 lbs of chicken breasts (whatever that turns out to be). My current plan is marinade them overnight in yogurt and garlic and cumin and lemon, then bake them shortly before service. Let them stand to reabsorb the juices, and then slice them so people can use the slices in pita sandwiches if they want.

My other thought was to cut up the chicken into cubes and make kabobs, and marinade and then bake those off. The advantage there is that it will be clear to the meat eaters that a serving is one kabob per person. The disadvantage is that I have to do a lot more prepwork... We'll see how my night goes...

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Your portions of felafel sound really small to me. Are you making the baked ones in the mini-muffin tins? I would prepare at least 4 per person. The chicken sounds a little skimpy too -- you may want to get some thighs as well. They're cheaper and some people like them just as well or more than breasts.

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Thanks for the portioning tips. I was waiting until I checked out the yields on the falafel mix to make a decision re. the number of falafel per person, but I've had a couple people suggest 4/person, so I'll aim for that plus a few extras.

With all of the side dishes, I was thinking of the meat as more of an accent than the center of the meal. But I'll check out the pricing and see what looks good. The more I think about it, the more I think kabobs are the right way to go in terms of the chicken.

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How many regular cans is equivalent to a #10 can? I've decided to use canned instead of dried chickpeas to save some time, but I can't get organic beans in a #10 can...

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Tammy, thanks for writing this up, I'm enjoying following your progress. You are very thoughtful and ambitious. They are lucky to have you!

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Aren't #10 cans, 10 pounds? How many ounces in the cans you're buying? I'm sure you can do the math. Besides, it can't hurt to buy extra, chickpeas are a good pantry item to have on hand -- they can always be added as is to a salad, whirred into some hummus, etc.

Remember to make some tahini sauce for the falafel. There's a good recipe on RecipeGullet (linked above i think), also you should read the Dried Bean thread. I'll bet a couple of pots of chickpeas could be put in a very low oven all day while you're at work (without soaking) and would be ready for processing when you got home.

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Aren't #10 cans, 10 pounds? How many ounces in the cans you're buying? I'm sure you can do the math.

You'd think so, wouldn't you? But it's not all that easy...

I did finally find a webpage with some substitution guidelines. Looks like a #10 can is approximately 6-7 lbs (depends on what's in it, of course). A standard size can is probably a #303. Judging from their substitution guidelines, looks like 7-8 cans is about the right number.

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Well, that was certainly a success! Got lots of kudos on this dinner. I had two very competent and experienced assistant cooks, which made everything go very smoothly. And thanks of course to you eGulleteers for all the advice and ideas.

My advance planning made things relaxed and non-rushed in the kitchen. Even so, I'm utterly exhausted - doing this intensity of physical work while 8 months pregnant is a real challenge for me. I have two more meals to cook before I go on maternity leave from community work, and I'm going to a) plan simpler menus and b) keep my condition in mind when I'm working out the distribution of duties so that I spend less time standing and cooking and more time sitting and chopping vegetables or doing other seated tasks.

This was a much more complex meal than my last one, and the costs reflect that. And the fact that this meal had meat in it raised the price - the chicken alone came in at around $30. Total budget was $118.65, and I fed 37 adults and 11 kids.

Quantities

Falafel

3.17 lbs falafel mix

Bulk from Whole Foods - there was no yield indication anywhere, so I had to guess. This ended up being pretty much exactly 8 cups of mix, which made 144 mini-muffin sized falafels. I had enough mini-muffin pans to cook 48 at at time, so did three batches. We played around with time and temperature, but there wasn't any real substantive difference between the batches that we cooked at 350 for 15 minutes versus 400 for 11 minutes. The bigger difference in crisping came from the muffin pans, with the non-stick ones performing better on crisping than the non-non-stick. People really liked that the falafel were baked. Thanks Rachel, for this great idea!

Chicken Kabobs

~6 lbs of Amish chicken, cubed

500 ml whole milk yogurt (organic)

2 lemons, juiced (organic)

Cumin

Pre-chopped garlic (from the pantry)

We prepped and marinated the chicken skewers the night before, so all we had to do today was throw them in the oven.

Hummus

8 15-oz cans chick peas (organic)

2 c tahini

1 1/2 c lemon juice (some organic, some not - I realized last night that I hadn't bought enough organic lemons and just picked some conventional ones up at a produce market today)

Pre-chopped garlic, salt, olive oil (from the pantry)

Tabouli

2.25 lbs bulgar, soaked the night before so it could chill overnight ("natural")

Dried mint

4 bunches parsley (organic)

3 bunches green onions (organic)

2 cucumbers (not organic - organic cucumbers cost $3.49/lb!!!)

2.43 lbs roma tomatoes (organic)

2 c lemon juice (some organic, some not, as above)

Salt, black pepper, and olive oil (from the pantry)

Cucumber and Yogurt Salad

8 cucumbers (not organic, see above)

2 500 ml containers whole milk yogurt (organic)

Cumin

Pre-chopped garlic, salt (from the pantry)

Other things I bought:

10 packages of pita bread from the Middle Eastern store at 95 cents/package

2 trays of baklava for dessert, at $10/tray

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Sounds great Tammy! You deserve to sit down and put your feet up now -- at least someone else does the dishes. :biggrin:

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Sounds great Tammy! You deserve to sit down and put your feet up now -- at least someone else does the dishes. :biggrin:

Thanks! Lying down with feet up right now.

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I'm so glad that the falafels worked out. I'm surprised that the non-non-stick pans yielded less crunchy falafel than the non-stick pans. You used plenty of olive oil, right? I hadn't realized you were so pregnant. When do you get to do your pre-prep the day before? After dinner cleanup? How was the texture of the chicken? I thought you weren't supposed to yogurt-marinate meat that long because would become mushy.

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I did use plenty of olive oil. I don't know why the non-stick pans worked better, but it's not the first time I've had that effect - I think the regular pans suck up some of the oil, somehow, where with the non-stick ones it beads up and has more of a deepfry effect.

I did the night before pre-prep at my house, because the cleaners were still busy cleaning and I didn't want to mess up the kitchen. Plus I love my own kitchen and never get to cook there any more!

Chicken texture was fine - I didn't know there was such a rule about yogurt marinades... They were perhaps a little overcooked - when I checked them at 15 minutes they were still really pink, so I gave them 10 more minutes when 5 probably would have been enough. Lessons learned for next time (although if I do this menu again, I'll probably do some sort of meat kebab, just for variation).

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(although if I do this menu again, I'll probably do some sort of meat kebab, just for variation)

lamb or pork souvlaki

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