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CaliPoutine

Cooking for 50 Senior Citizens

765 posts in this topic

Here is the deal....

I start another job next Thursday( in addition to my sous chef/pastry chef job for a caterer) for a senior dining program. The program is run 2 x a month and my budget is 3 dollar a person.( the seniors pay 8 dollars for the meal). The town I'm working in is right on Lake Huron, but its still farm country. I've been told that they perfer meat and potatoes. I've also been told that in order to meet the 3 dollar a person budget, I'll have to purchase the meat/poulty at 1.99lb. Additionally, I'm not allowed to cook chicken legs because someone previously chocked on the bones.

The meal must consist of juice, roll, main dish, starch, 2 veg( 1 can be a salad) and a dessert. I must also make a diabetic friendly dessert too.

I've already perused Tammy's Thread on cooking for 40 but that doesnt really help me much because that type of cooking is too fancy for the seniors.

I'm having a difficult time because I don't cook this way. I hope to introduce the seniors to a new way of eating, but I'm realisitic too. I mean, its probably too late to change your way of thinking at that age.

The prior cook used a lot of canned soups, bottled dressing, sauces, margarine etc. I am *hoping* I don't have to resort to that. I actually refuse to use margarine and I won't bend on that one.

I've already planned my first meal and I when I was telling the coordinator about it, she said she hoped it goes over well.

I was able to buy bone in chicken breasts at 1.97lbs( very cheap for Canada, chicken is outrageously expensive here). I'm going to bake the breasts with some greek seasonings. I found a greek rice dish ( basmati rice, tomatoes, spinach., onions, garlic cooked pilaf style) online that I'm going to use too. I'll make a simple greek salad using regular black olives( not greek). I'll also make the salad dressing with olive oil and red wine vinegar as well as some oregano. Dessert will be a pineapple mandarin cake( doctored up cake mix). I wanted to serve pita but was told that is too " out there".

I only have 7.5 hrs to shop and cook the meal. I also have a few volunteers that will come and help. Too many labor intensive dishes wont work due to the time constraints. I also only have 2 ovens( regular kitchen ovens, not commercial)

I can usually plan the meal on Friday when the new grocery ads come out. This weeks ad shows Pork shoulder bone in for 99 cents a lb. I think that would be perfect for the next meal( I can buy and freeze in the agency's large chest freezer). Any ideas for that?

If you have any other ideas, please feel free to post them here.

Thanks a lot!!

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Here is the deal....

I start another job next Thursday( in addition to my sous chef/pastry chef job for a caterer) for a senior dining program.    The program is run 2 x a month and my budget is 3 dollar a person.( the seniors pay 8 dollars for the meal).  The town I'm working in is right on Lake Huron, but its still farm country.  I've been told that they perfer meat and potatoes.  I've also been told that in order to meet the 3 dollar a person budget, I'll have to purchase the meat/poulty at 1.99lb.  Additionally, I'm not allowed to cook chicken legs because someone previously chocked on the bones. 

The meal must consist of juice, roll, main dish, starch, 2 veg( 1 can be a salad) and a dessert.  I must also make a diabetic friendly dessert too.

I've already perused Tammy's Thread on cooking for 40 but that doesnt really help me much because that type of cooking is too fancy for the seniors. 

I'm having a difficult time because I don't cook this way.  I hope to introduce the seniors to a new way of eating, but I'm realisitic too.  I mean, its probably too late to change your way of thinking at that age.   

The prior cook used a lot of canned soups, bottled dressing, sauces, margarine etc.  I am *hoping* I don't have to resort to that.  I actually refuse to use margarine and I won't bend on that one.

I've already planned my first meal and I when I was telling the coordinator about it, she said she hoped it goes over well. 

I was able to buy bone in chicken breasts at 1.97lbs( very cheap for Canada, chicken is outrageously expensive here).  I'm going to bake the breasts with some greek seasonings.  I found a greek rice dish ( basmati rice, tomatoes, spinach., onions, garlic cooked pilaf style) online that I'm going to use too.  I'll make a simple greek salad using regular black olives( not greek).  I'll also make the salad dressing with olive oil and red wine vinegar as well as some oregano.  Dessert will be a pineapple mandarin cake( doctored up cake mix).    I wanted to serve pita but was told that is too " out there".

I only have 7.5 hrs to shop and cook the meal.  I also have a few volunteers that will come and help.  Too many labor intensive dishes wont work due to the time constraints.  I also only have 2 ovens( regular kitchen ovens, not commercial)

I can usually plan the meal on Friday when the new grocery ads come out.  This weeks ad shows Pork shoulder bone in for 99 cents a lb.  I think that would be perfect for the next meal( I can buy and freeze in the agency's large chest freezer).  Any ideas for that? 

If you have any other ideas, please feel free to post them here. 

Thanks a lot!!

After I read your post, my first thought was to browse through my 50 year old copy of the Betty Crocker Picture Cookbook. The book is chock full of recipes for meat and potatoes folks, and even includes ways to economize and stretch meals.

Betty was good for that, you know?

If I were a senior, I would absolutely freak out (yeah, I'm a child of the 70's) at having a throwback dinner cooked from recipes popular when I was young.

Complete with the non politically correct foodstuffs such as real butter, gravy, mashed potatoes, etc.

Especially if the dinner were accompanied by some Benny Goodman swing music.

One time we held a retro USO dinner for our local veterans and their families and it was an overwhelming success.

The Main Course?

Why, Creamed Chipped Beef, of course!

Straight out of the WWll Kitchen Field Manual.


Edited by Old Timer (log)

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oh, yes--please keep reporting on this--it's such an interesting task you are taking on--much like the brave souls who are trying to bring healthy food to school cafeterias.

I think a hearty, old fashioned main dish with the side veg and a nice salad would be great --also consult Joy of Cooking.

I'm thinking chicken and dumplings, beef stew--I have a noodle dish recipe with ground turkey , noodles, sour cream, ricotta cheese and i forget what else, some tomatoes, I think--my kids adored it--it's very creamy and soothing--not too high in fat and fairly cheap--let me know if you want it.

Macaroni and cheese with ham, mild chili--

those Seniors will be so happy--the food at those food programs is dismal--we'd love my MIL to get Meals on Wheels but she refuses to eat the food more than once a week--we've spoiled her with our cooking, unfortunately.

Zoe

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Meatloaf.  Pierogies.  Spaghetti and meatballs.  Chicken pot pie.  Pulled pork sandwiches.  Baked Beans.  Fried rice.  That's a horribly low budget, both time and dollar-wise.  I look forward to hearing the tales of your travails!

I think I forgot to mention that they dont want pasta at all. And, remember the meal has to include a main, and 2 veg( 1 can be a salad) .

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Here is the deal....

I start another job next Thursday( in addition to my sous chef/pastry chef job for a caterer) for a senior dining program.

I've been told that they perfer meat and potatoes. I've also been told that in order to meet the 3 dollar a person budget, I'll have to purchase the meat/poulty at 1.99lb.

The meal must consist of juice, roll, main dish, starch, 2 veg( 1 can be a salad) and a dessert. I must also make a diabetic friendly dessert too.

As a newbie to EGullet, I am not sure I should be responding to this. However, putting temerity to one side here goes:

Shepherd's Pie. I use inexpensive minced beef browned in a skillet, slowly in order to drain off a good portion of the fat. Add onions and cook until soft and flavors mingle with meat. Add thin sllced carrots, continue cooking over med heat, then add gravy browning mixed with hot water. (As you're in Canada you can find "Bisto", I'm sure) Taste for seasonings. I frequently will add a small amount of beef bouillon to add more flavor. Then add frozen peas, stirring them into the mixture.

Top with a good brand of instant mashed potatoes and rake them evenly over mixture with a fork.

You can freeze this at this point in an oven ready dish. Finish the dish by bringing up to temperature and browning potatoes under the broiler.

I think this will meet your parameters of time and cost fairly well.

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As a newbie to EGullet, I am not sure I should be responding to this. However, putting temerity to one side here goes:

Shepherd's Pie. I use inexpensive minced beef browned in a skillet, slowly in order to drain off a good portion of the fat. Add onions and cook until soft and flavors mingle with meat. Add thin sllced carrots, continue cooking over med heat, then add gravy browning mixed with hot water. (As you're in Canada you can find "Bisto", I'm sure) Taste for seasonings. I frequently will add a small amount of beef bouillon to add more flavor. Then add frozen peas, stirring them into the mixture.

Top with a good brand of instant mashed potatoes and rake them evenly over mixture with a fork.

You can freeze this at this point in an oven ready dish. Finish the dish by bringing up to temperature and browning potatoes under the broiler.

I think this will meet your parameters of time and cost fairly well.

Thanks. Shepards pie is on my list( I plan to use ground turkey). I'm allowed to use real potatoes too. No instant potatoes for me!!

I should probably mention, I dont eat red meat( I do eat poultry though), but I will have volunteers that can taste for me.

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Before you or anyone else decides that something is too fancy for seniors to eat, perhaps you need to investigate the food habits of your seniors: survey is one method, or talking to them about food preferences is another. Probably all that is needed is for you to educate their palates. My mother, an unadventuresome eater at the best of times, started cooking with a wok at the age of 80 because she learned of the health benefits of wok cooking. Have some samples of the new dishes you wish to introduce at some of the meals and ask for feedback. Ask some of the women or men clients for their recipes and get them involved in meal planning....you might be surprised by what you learn.


"Flay your Suffolk bought-this-morning sole with organic hand-cracked pepper and blasted salt. Thrill each side for four minutes at torchmark haut. Interrogate a lemon. Embarrass any tough roots from the samphire. Then bamboozle till it's al dente with that certain je ne sais quoi."

Arabella Weir as Minty Marchmont - Posh Nosh

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Being a “senior” of almost 64 I can’t relate to your problem of dealing with such a negative view on our eating habits. I assure you that I’m just as adventurous as the next person when it comes to food. My father of 89 continues to enjoy great food and I just prepared his favorite, osso bucco, last week. Don’t sell the old folks short.

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Randi,

I've e-mailed some recipes to you. A nice eggplant dish and a few other ideas for pork and chicken. I hope chicken thighs are legal as far as the bones.

I was heading over to a fellow eG'ers home the other day when I passed a Sysco truck delivering food to a local retirement home. That got me thinking what all we eG'ers are going to do for food when we end up in the nursing homes and retirement homes and they try to feed us the lowest common denominator.

Maybe I should start a thread.

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Being a “senior” of almost 64 I can’t relate to your problem of dealing with such a negative view on our eating habits. I assure you that I’m just as adventurous as the next person when it comes to food. My father of 89 continues to enjoy great food and I just prepared his favorite, osso bucco, last week. Don’t sell the old folks short.

Thanks for everyones comments. I just need to reiterate that this is RURAL Ontario. None of these clients would ever participate in Egullet, they might not even know how to get online for that matter.

I guess if you don't live here, its hard to understand. Someone told me this once " if they can't pronounce it, they wont eat it". She wasnt talking about seniors either, she was talking about the residents of another small rural town( Pop 1,000). Maybe Kerry knows what I'm trying to say since I imagine Manatoulin is similar.

I was told by the director that I might be getting complaints this week because of the rice dish I'm serving. They would rather have potatoes at every dinner.

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Thanks for everyones comments.  I just need to reiterate that this is RURAL Ontario.  None of these clients would ever participate in Egullet, they might not even know how to get online for that matter. 

I guess if you don't live here, its hard to understand.  Someone told me this once " if they can't pronounce it, they wont eat it".  She wasnt talking about seniors either, she was talking about the residents of another small rural town( Pop 1,000).  Maybe Kerry knows what I'm trying to say since I imagine Manatoulin is similar.

I was told by the director that I might be getting complaints this week because of the rice dish I'm serving.  They would rather have potatoes at every dinner.

That's my family you're describing, and the food I grew up with. So, maybe you can find some ideas on the Dutch Cooking thread? :smile:

Seriously, I vote for stamppot - equal amounts of potatoes and vegetable mashed together. The vegetable can be anything from cooked kale, apples, carrots & onions, sauerkraut to raw finely sliced vegeables such as endive, watercress, beetroot or even iceberg lettuce. Stamppot goes wel with (smoked) pork and you could serve a salad on the side. Cheap, too if you work with seasonal vegetables.

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Lights are flashing and bells are ringing in the customer service area of my brain. Win them first, give them all the potatoes they can hold or stuff in their pockets, let them float out the door on fluffy piles of wonderfully prepared potatoes. Make them swoon for how great your simple fare is cooked and presented. A rose tomato on the salad will go a looong way. Assuming they're ok with tomatos. But have a recognizable tomato in there too.

You will be their hero. Then you will have thier never dying adoration to be able to introduce strange substances like rice. After a few successful meals where you've lulled them into complacency with your stuff then add a little sample cup of something different and ask for input (be real careful with that though--aged politics ain't pretty). Otherwise they will be on the offensive trying to teach you how to cook for them.

Umm, I would recommend some pot roast--you probably said that--it's so obvious. But umm, be sure whatever you make can be easily masticated, easily chewed. Lowest common denominator food can be earth shatteringly delicious.

I'd also suggest that you offer both margarine, like a Healthy Choice kinda stuff and butter. Be gentle. These meals are so important to them.

This kind of position is not stand on your ideals time. It's let's make nice with the wrinkled ones and gently see how many sushi lovers we can convert. :laugh:

eta: So are you de-boning the bone in chicken??


Edited by K8memphis (log)

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Meatloaf

Pot Roast

Onion smothered salisbury steak

Chicken marsala

Beef stew

Stuffed cabbage

Roast tukey breast - I'd buy a whole turkey and take off the wings, legs, thighs and back to make a stock and just roast the breast.

Turkey noodle soup

Tomato rice soup

Lentil soup

Minestrone

Mashed potatoes

Whipped or candied sweet potatoes

Hash browns or home fries

Twice baked potatoes - they reheat well

Bread and sausage stuffing (with the turkey dinners)

Rice pudding

Bread pudding

Tapioca

Chocolate pudding

Apple crisp or any fruit in season


Edited by msfurious1 (log)

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For main courses given everything you've said, I would be thinking about braised dishes. They use inexpensive cuts of meat that end up being very tender, with gravy/juices after cooking. Braised meats, as you know, are full of flavor too. Veal shank may be beyond your budget, but there are plenty of braising-suitable meats that bought in quantity for your group could work. What do you think?


---------------------------------------------------------

"If you don't want to use butter, add cream."

Julia Child

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I think a survey would be a great idea. My husband and I are both seniors. We enjoy new and different foods. We live in an over 55 community and most of the folks here love to try new things. Perhaps the advice you were given was because that was all that was ever offered to these seniors. Some braised dishes would be great. I've especially been having fun with Molly Stevens cookbook "All about Braising".

Don't be afraid to get creative. Just remember that a lot of these seniors that go to the centers use this as the main meal of the day. Supper is usually just very light. $3.00pp is a small budget but I am sure you will do a great job.

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Hmmm. My grandmother McArthur was born and died in Glencoe, which I'm fairly sure is close to where your seniors live. Gammy lived on a farm for part of that time, and I remember her cooking and meal planning as Good as it Gets. Not flashy, but delicious -- the homegrown veg, fruits and chickens didn't hurt, of course. She certainly served rice and pasta.

But given your situation and suggestions from others: has anyone mentioned salmon patties? Canned salmon works just fine, and it should be served with a parsley speckled bechemel.

Speaking of parsley, parsley buttered potatoes go well with the salmon cakes -- and I'm with you: butter please!

Chicken or pork schnitzel would go down well, I think -- lots of Hungarian and Polish immigrants in those parts. But in the end, tasty plain food will triumph -- please let us know the details.


Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

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I was heading over to a fellow eG'ers home the other day when I passed a Sysco truck delivering food to a local retirement home.  That got me thinking what all we eG'ers are going to do for food when we end up in the nursing homes and retirement homes and they try to feed us the lowest common denominator. 

Maybe I should start a thread.

Most homes like my mom's, in Strathroy, Ont. have no kitchen staff, they bring the food in and reheat in microwaves. My mom cooked fairly adventurous meals all her life, just like Maggie's grandma, but she adapted to the bland food at the home in her late 80's, telling me, "I've never had a bad meal here."

They get one shot of alcohol before dinner, if permitted.

I'm not sure how I could adapt, but I think the baby boomers will be more than a little demanding, when the time comes.

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I'm not sure how I could adapt, but I think the baby boomers will be more than a little demanding, when the time comes.

You bet we will -- as much as I love Shepherds Pie and Salisbury steak. Will our vegan brethern make out ? Will we get authentic Mediterranean, herbs and all? Wine with our dinners? Pho? Frisee with lardons? Great question, and deserving of its own topic. Will you still need me, will you still feed me when I'm 84?

Cali: Ice cream with chocolate or caramel sauce.


Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

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That's my family you're describing, and the food I grew up with. So, maybe you can find some ideas on the Dutch Cooking thread?  :smile:

I have to admit, my first thought when reading of CaliPoutine's dilemma was Dutch food, especially when she mentioned no pasta. :shock: I have memories of friend's Dutch father, for whom spaghetti was "too foreign" a dish!

About senior cooking, the survey/education idea is a great place to start. My mother (almost 71) recently joined a senior's lunch club. She is a very adventurous eater, and loves trying new things, but most of the seniors in the group are polar opposites (this is in Winnipeg, which I would equate in many ways to a very large small town). After lunch at an Indian restaurant (which was a crappy one, at that), the others rebelled and requested that future meals be at "normal" restaurants. My mother said, however, that most of the people had never tried Indian food, and no one bothered to explain it to them. She said she would have given them a mini-lecture on the food so they could better understand what it was and how to eat it. Education is a big help, but the supper organizers aren't paying CaliPoutine to educate, so they may not want her to go that route.

Regarding food costs, I wonder if there isn't a poultry processing plant or similar place in the area, which might be willing to sell at cheaper-than-retail prices as a community service. It might be worthwhile to try...it wouldn't hurt, anyway!

Slightly off-topic, but about Meals for Wheels...my mother volunteered for them for a couple of years, and she said the meals were horrible. They contained things like frozen cutlets made of mystery meat and similar items. I would never, ever let someone I loved eat that stuff no matter how difficult it would be to find other options. They do feed large numbers of customers rather cheaply, though, so MoW menus might be something to look into when looking for more menu ideas.

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I'm not about to give any clues to my own age but I will say that if offered most of the fare suggested in this thread, I would lead a revolution.

Several people have said it well - depends on the "seniors" and how we and they define themselves. That they are rural folk need have little influence on how they might react to dishes as exciting as those reacted to by those in their twenties, thirties or forties. Simply making assumptions that because these are "seniors" they will want lots of potatoes and braised foods is an insult to both your potential clients (those who will be dining on your food) and to your own talents in the kitchen.

Ah well.....restaurants and other eating outlets have, as has the rest of society, had to come to grips with racism and sexism. The time has come to make an inroad into the stereotypes of "agism". And that is NOT political correctness. It is common courtesy.

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Thanks for all your great comments

Roast tukey breast - I'd buy a whole turkey and take off the wings, legs, thighs and back to make a stock and just roast the breast.

Roast Turkey is ONLY served on Thanksgiving( in October) and Christmas. Turkey is another outrageously expensive item here and because of that, we're given an extra 2 dollars a person and an extra 2 hrs to prepare. Even with the extra time, the turkeys have to be cooked the night before.

I was training during the Christmas meal( early December) and the cook made stuffing with tons of margarine and canned mushroom soup.

Furthermore, I can't really plan the next meal( Jan 25th) until the grocery ads come out on the prior Friday. A lot of your ideas( dutch thread, braised dishes) are really good and I will check out the Dutch thread( in fact, there is a large Dutch population here as well) and my All About Braising book.


Edited by CaliPoutine (log)

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Have you thought about buying from a commercial supplier? Most foodstuffs are much cheaper that way, and they deliver to your door. That will free up time for you to cook, no? It would also make it easier to plan meals rather than "waiting for the ads".

As for those people saying that she is underestimating the seniors.......If she has been told what they will and wont eat, by people who are already familiar with the situation........I think that you should play it safe until you gain their trust. Then poll them. Try to involve them in their menu planning.

My MIL is an event co-ordinator for a home. Average age is 86. This is also in a small town. Salmon Arm, B.C. They respond surprisingly well to her. She has theme nights...etc. See if there is an event co-ordinator, and see if you can work in conjunction with them.

Just thoughts.

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Have you thought about buying from a commercial supplier? Most foodstuffs are much cheaper that way, and they deliver to your door. That will free up time for you to cook, no? It would also make it easier to plan meals rather than "waiting for the ads".

I've already suggested that, but since we cook our meals at a rented church kitchen, we don't really have room to store much. A friend of mine( eg member pookie) works as a food service supervisor for a long term care facility and she is going to order the frozen veg for me. She has access to much better blends and brands than I have access to. I've picked a Prince Edward Blends( green and wax beans and carrots). Surprisingly though, the price is not that much cheaper. The program I work for, also feeds Seniors in two other towns. The frozen veg come in 12kg size( 26.4 lbs) and I wont need that much. I don't want to serve the same veg two weeks in a row so I'll pass it on to the other program.

Speaking of frozen veg, I have a mental block when it comes to using them, but I know that I have to. Especially in the winter. I plan to use a lot of fresh, local produce come summer.( We're in Farm country, our biggest crop is Corn)

Speaking of Summer, I can't imagine cooking heavy roasts, stews in Summer.

What do you suggest for those very hot( thanks to global warming) months?

Btw, I WONT have access to a BBQ. ( not that I can imagine them eating a burger but ya never know).

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I'm not about to give any clues to my own age but I will say that if offered most of the fare suggested in this thread, I would lead a revolution. 

Several people have said it well - depends on the "seniors" and how we and they define themselves.  That they are rural folk need have little influence on how they might react to dishes as exciting as those reacted to by those in their twenties, thirties or forties.  Simply making assumptions that because these are "seniors" they will want lots of potatoes and braised foods is an insult to both your potential clients (those who will be dining on your food) and to your own talents in the kitchen.

Ah well.....restaurants and other eating outlets have, as has the rest of society, had to come to grips with racism and sexism.  The time has come to make an inroad into the stereotypes of "agism".  And that is NOT political correctness.  It is common courtesy.

Absolutely. I know the type of folk Randi is serving though, and chances are, they've been this way all their lives, meat and potatoes, and simple but hearty fare.

There's no doubt we're an aging population as our elderly are living longer and in many cases, healthier. In recent weeks, I've had cause to remark that we treat our dead with more respect than we do our elderly.

My mother in law is 95, still lives in her own apartment and enjoys a steak as well as the rest of us. My mother, on the other hand is 89 and is forced to a "minced diet", as her health is not so good.

In the assisted living home my mom lives in, they are fortunate enough to have their own chef who cares about what they eat and does his best to make it tasty as well. He's remarked though, that it took him several months to get the residents to "trust" him enough to try something new and different. They wanted what they were familiar with, and this is in an area where the average income is higher than most, in Ontario, and these people are paying big bucks to live there.

I'd start out slow Randi, and as someone else said win thier trust (and their tastebuds) with the stuff they are comfortable with. Even if you want to make something a little different, call it something they can relate to. A braise can be a "stew) etc.

Do you have an extra freezer somewhere where you can freeze and store the cheaper cuts of meat so you can buy extra when they are on sale? It's a rural area, so what about approaching some farmers. In fact, some of the people youre feeding may have relatives that are still farming. Maybe you can strike a deal for some eggs, chickens etc.

for the summer, they're still going to want their meat and potatoes, but you can probably do things like potato salads, etc and even cold fried chicken maybe, although i can't really imagine making fried chicken for 50 people! More cold cuts or cold roast beef sandwhiches. Pot pies, even in the summer will likely be welcomed.


Edited by Marlene (log)

Marlene

cookskorner

Practice. Do it over. Get it right.

Mostly, I want people to be as happy eating my food as I am cooking it.

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