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Cooking for 50 Senior Citizens


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The meat was an inside round oven roast.  I sprinkled it with salt and pepper and dried thyme.  I made gravy with the drippings and some "bisto".   I had lots of complaints about the meat.  The seniors couldnt cut it with their butter knife so they came to the conclusion that it was overcooked.  It wasnt.  I pulled it at 155F. It was nicely pink.  I bought 7 roasts for a total of 43.15(1.79lb).  I served 42 with 4 takeouts.  I had 3 whole roasts left over.  I froze them and I'm going to make a soup with them in January. 

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I think the roast looks great!

But it did bring up an important point. If the seniors are only provided with butter knives (hope they're at least metal ones and not plastic!), then a roast, especially one cut that thickly, is not a great choice for a meal. Remember, too, we lose strength as we age, so even if you could have cut it with your butter knife, it doesn't mean they would have had the strength to do so (hypothetically, of course).

Pot roast might be a better choice for them. But then they'd probably complain that the meat were too soft!

Did they at least like the cheesecake? I'd like some of that cheesecake. And I assure you, I would definitely appreciate it! :biggrin:

Yes, they were metal knives and they loved the cheesecake. I was worried they'd complain that I cut the pieces too small( I got 20 pieces from a 9 x 13 pan). I told the servers to tell them it was very rich and thats why the pieces were small.

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Er, my opinion is that you should do something very simple in order to have time to enjoy a pseudo-Thanksgiving meal with Robin, at least. (Would the "Breakfast for Dinner" theme work with them, or would they freak? That is not only inexpensive but quick and easy; it was also extremely popular. Perhaps you could do an "overnight french toast" and breakfast strata - both easily prepared ahead of time and then just cooked off right before service). It's just not right that you should have to forego proper enjoyment of the most important of food holidays - Thanksgiving!

They would FREAK if I did a breakfast for dinner. The coordinator changed the time of the meal for January-March. The meal is normally at 5:30 but we changed it to noon because of the weather and how dark it gets here. Anyway, they were very worried the type of meal would change if we did it at noon( ie: soup/ sandwich vs. a full meal)

They want their full meal. Juice( whats up with tomato juice anyway?), roll/bun/bread, meat, starch( always potato), salad, veg and dessert( coffee and tea). They didnt even like it when I gave them iced tea this summer because it was so freaking hot out.

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just a quick note, for your pseudo Thanksgiving dinner: At the beginning of October (before Thanksgiving) I did roast chicken with apple stuffing. tossed salad, maple glazed squash & carrots, and pumpkin chiffon tarts. Total cost was $3 per person for 100 ppl. Portion size was two bone-in thighs, 1 cup of salad, 1 up of veg, and one 2" tart. I baked the chicken separately, then put it on top of the stuffing to finish. Then I was able to use the juice from the cooking chicken in the gravy (Knorr mix).

Pumpkin filling was about 6 "regular" size tins of pumpkin and pumpkin pie filling from the church pantry, mixed w/ vanilla pudding mix and some cream, and I bought pre-done tart shells on sale at the grocery store. Lucky us, we have a Costco close by (30 min drive), and so I was able to get the chicken there. Salad greens come from a restaurant supplier about 30 min away who does cash and carry; I ordered 15 lbs of chopped romaine & other lettuce.

Unfortunately, I take very few photos of my work. But some other people did. Suanne posted the photo here http://chowtimes.com/2007/10/roasted_chick...e_stu.html#more. The original recipe was in the Oct issue of Eat magazine. I adapted to suit people who don't eat pork.

Other than pre-made stocks, gravy mix and pudding mixes, I try to use as little pre-fab food as possible, but really, I totally need to use the frozen peas now and again. It seems impossible to find anyone who will shell peas for 100.

Edited by KarenDW (log)

Karen Dar Woon

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Hey Karen

That above recipe might work well since I have 16lbs of boneless, skinless chicken thighs in the freezer at work. I got them for .99lb and I've been wondering what to do with them.

I'm going to do some more research on that!!

Thanks again

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another very popular and easy chicken thing, although your seniors might balk at the perceived "foreign" food... I am making this next Thursday for my Community Meal: Salsa Chicken. Bake the chicken on trays, then move to hotel pan inserts. Cover w/ mild salsa and/or chopped tomatoes. Sprinkle w/ grated cheese. Finish baking & hold hot. Serve w/ rice. What the heck, go out on a limb and add some chopped bell peppers and a little cumin to the rice. I might just use some taco seasoning mix from the food rescue place. The last time I served this meal the response was very good.

Romaine hearts are pretty inexpensive around here, and I can also order pre-chopped romaine for $6 a pound from the food service suppliers. Our program sometimes receives donations from the local food bank, including things like tomatoes and ketchup. So, this week I may be using donated items instead of pre-done salsa. We also have been receiving fresh carrots and other root veg from a local rural park initiative. It's so cool. Last Tuesday I went and harvest the carrots we served on Thursday night. The guests seemed interested that I was able to be so engaged. The donations make it possible for me to keep to my $3 per person budget (which also includes napkins, take out containers, iced tea, milk, foil, parchment paper)

I have a thread on this forum which talks about the Community Meal Project I work for. But maybe people have to be members of the forum to access the archives.

Edited by KarenDW (log)

Karen Dar Woon

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another very popular and easy chicken thing, although your seniors might balk at the perceived "foreign" food... I am making this next Thursday for my Community Meal: Salsa Chicken. Bake the chicken on trays, then move to hotel pan inserts. Cover w/ mild salsa and/or chopped tomatoes. Sprinkle w/ grated cheese. Finish baking & hold hot. Serve w/ rice. What the heck, go out on a limb and add some chopped bell peppers and a little cumin to the rice. I might just use some taco seasoning mix from the food rescue place. The last time I served this meal the response was very good.

Romaine hearts are pretty inexpensive around here, and I can also order pre-chopped romaine for $6 a pound from the food service suppliers. Our program sometimes receives donations from the local food bank, including things like tomatoes and ketchup. So, this week I may be using donated items instead of pre-done salsa. We also have been receiving fresh carrots and other root veg from a local rural park initiative. It's so cool. Last Tuesday I went and harvest the carrots we served on Thursday night. The guests seemed interested that I was able to be so engaged. The donations make it possible for me to keep to my $3 per person budget (which also includes napkins, take out containers, iced tea, milk, foil, parchment paper)

I have a thread on this forum which talks about the Community Meal Project I work for. But maybe people have to be members of the forum to access the archives.

You have to sign in on that site but they say great things about your work on Chowtimes.com

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The meat was an inside round oven roast.  I sprinkled it with salt and pepper and dried thyme.  I made gravy with the drippings and some "bisto".  I had lots of complaints about the meat.  The seniors couldnt cut it with their butter knife so they came to the conclusion that it was overcooked.  It wasnt.  I pulled it at 155F. It was nicely pink.  I bought 7 roasts for a total of 43.15(1.79lb).  I served 42 with 4 takeouts.  I had 3 whole roasts left over.  I froze them and I'm going to make a soup with them in January. 

gallery_25969_665_1041726.jpg

Y'know, I have wrestled with similar issues when cooking for Mr. E. I have found that he really does like a nice rare piece of beef ... but he lacks the coordination and hand strength to cut it unless it is really freakin' tender. His complaints come out in the form of "the meat's too tough", partly I think because it's hard for him to perceive that the issue is not with the meat but his physical deficits. Whenever I start taking his comments personally--which I do a lot!--I remind myself about these gaps in his insight. Meanwhile, I look for ways I can solve the problem through cooking technique. I've had my best results recently with serving a London broil style steak, sliced very thin. He still struggles a little cutting it, but the rareness motivates him to prevail. :smile:

Thanks Karen!!  I really thought they would love it too.  I was almost in tears when I heard the complaints.  I'm not used to ppl complaining about my food.  ...  I think they look at it like they're paying 9$ for the meal and maybe they think 9.00 is a lot of money.  I don't know though.  Its very frustrating.

I totally feel your pain. My cook-ego has had to come to terms with the fact that perhaps my biggest culinary hit with Mr. E is when I cook Hamburger Helper stroganoff. I'm trying my damnest not to be an elitist about it ... in a former life, I would have loved this stuff, but now all I can taste is fat and salt. But E loves it to pieces, and if it makes the old guy happy, I wanna roll with that. So I make the stuff as nicely as you can make this mix out of a box ... and I just try to mollify my culinary passions elsewhere.

It's like we're psychologists as much as cooks ... there's no denying that at least some members of this population need their food to be super-familiar. It really gives whole other levels of meaning to the words "comfort food." Such foods are a little like therapy; the diners need the solace of something in a changing world that reminds them of their roots.

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I've been thinking about your challenge. And firstly what I need to know is are you single? If not I hope your husband has read this thread.

I can't help but think the organizers aren't doing everything they can to help you with the budget (are they seniors?). Are they looking for sponsors? Here these kinds of things have been known to get sponsorships from everybody from Hospitals to Funeral Homes. Both of which are done very tastefully.

I'm not saying you should look into it. I'm suggesting you should suggest the organizers look into it. Seems to me something like $300 extra for some entity to get there name in front of 50 seniors would be very doable. Mmmn what could you do with a $9 per person budget?

A few sources of info would be other senior organizations, churches, banquet halls, diner theater management. Again let them look, your the chef.

"And in the meantime, listen to your appetite and play with your food."

Alton Brown, Good Eats

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It looks like you're doing a great job in a challenging situation to me. It is hard not to take negative comments about your food personally but I think personally is exactly how they should be taken. I think it would be more concerning if you didn't. When I see cooks that hear something negative about their food and give it the ol' "whatever, they don't know what they're talking about" attitude I know it's one place I won't be eating. Basking in the compliments is great but pondering the negatives is learning. No matter the culinary skill or ingredients involved, a meal is only as great as the people eating it think it is. Of course that's easier said than done... I've had to send my ego to sit in the corner plenty o' times.

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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Hey Randi -- do you by any chance have MasterCook (recipe software). I use it for typing up my own recipes, but I just noticed this morning that one of the cookbooks already in the system is "Food for Fifty". I'm not sure if it's the same one that you already have in book form, but there's 607 recipes. (I think I picked up the latest version for about $20.The program also lets you rescale all of the other recipes in the other cookbooks - there's over 1000 recipes in there.)

As for your desire to make lasagna and salad for a meal. Is there any chance that you could do some sort of baked pasta as a side dish? Maybe a chicken breast with a side of baked ziti or something? This way they're still getting their meat and side, and you can run the pasta by them and get a real response. If they like it, next time you do lasagna. Just a thought . .

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I've been thinking about your challenge. And firstly what I need to know is are you single? If not I hope your husband has read this thread.

I can't help but think the organizers aren't doing everything they can to help you with the budget (are they seniors?). Are they looking for sponsors? Here these kinds of things have been known to get sponsorships from everybody from Hospitals to Funeral Homes. Both of which are done very tastefully.

I'm not saying you should look into it. I'm suggesting you should suggest the organizers look into it. Seems to me something like $300 extra for some entity to get there name in front of 50 seniors would be very doable. Mmmn what could you do with a $9 per person budget?

A few sources of info would be other senior organizations, churches, banquet halls, diner theater management. Again let them look, your the chef.

No, I'm not single, I'm legally married : ). I actually have a wife not a husband!! If you're interested in the story there, you can read my very first food blog.

I've spoken to them about getting donations, but since they are charging the seniors for a meal( 9.00), they dont feel right about getting donations. The meal program is just one of the many things the agency does( home healthcare, housekeeping, driving, etc, etc). The agency has a few fundraisers per year, but the money isnt earmarked specifically for the dining program.

I've been surprised about what I've been able to put out with my budget, but as I said before, I run myself ragged shopping at different stores. Yesterday, I picked up a 20lb bag of potatoes for 1.77. I'm not sure what I'll do with them or even if I'll use them next time but at least I have them. If I don't use them, I can pass them to the other cook.( she cooks every Tuesday and Wednesday) She cooks in two different towns.

Speaking of her, I'm filling in for her on Dec 11th and 12th. I then cook for my program on the 13th. My program is having the "Christmas Meal". Turkey, stuffing, etc, etc. Their xmas meal isnt until the following week. I'd like to cook the same thing for both those programs. I'll also have to cook my turkey's on Wednesday too.

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Hey Randi -- do you by any chance have MasterCook (recipe software).  I use it for typing up my own recipes, but I just noticed this morning that one of the cookbooks already in the system is "Food for Fifty". I'm not sure if it's the same one that you already have in book form, but there's 607 recipes. (I think I picked up the latest version for about $20.The program also lets you rescale all of the other recipes in the other cookbooks - there's over 1000 recipes in there.)

As for your desire to make lasagna and salad for a meal.  Is there any chance that you could do some sort of baked pasta as a side dish? Maybe a chicken breast with a side of baked ziti or something? This way they're still getting their meat and side, and you can run the pasta by them and get a real response. If they like it, next time you do lasagna. Just a thought . .

I don't have Mastercook, but I've been eyeing up various versions on Ebay. I want to get one that lets me figure out costing for my own catering too.

The pasta idea is a good one. I know what I'll do..... I'll bread the thighs and fry them like cutlets. I'll make a big casserole of baked ziti ( with ricotta) too.

They can have ceasar salad and garlic bread too!!

Thanks Pam!!

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I totally feel your pain. My cook-ego has had to come to terms with the fact that perhaps my biggest culinary hit with Mr. E is when I cook Hamburger Helper stroganoff. I'm trying my damnest not to be an elitist about it ... in a former life, I would have loved this stuff, but now all I can taste is fat and salt. But E loves it to pieces, and if it makes the old guy happy, I wanna roll with that. So I make the stuff as nicely as you can make this mix out of a box ... and I just try to mollify my culinary passions elsewhere.

It's like we're psychologists as much as cooks ... there's no denying that at least some members of this population need their food to be super-familiar. It really gives whole other levels of meaning to the words "comfort food." Such foods are a little like therapy; the diners need the solace of something in a changing world that reminds them of their roots.

I hear you Ellen!! I think their most favorite meal was Canadian Thanksgiving. It was the most processed food I've ever cooked. They had the green bean casserole( frozen green beans, mushroom soup, canned fried onions), dressed up stove top stuffing, pillsbury grand biscuits, frozen pumpkin pie from M & M. Totally frustrating!!

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Do you have somebody with/at a restaurant that would let you order supplies on their invoice? The owner of the restaurant where I work and I are partners in a catering business we're trying to get going and we just order things we need through the restaurant and then pay that portion of the invoice from the catering account. I know it's easy for me because the restaurant owner is part of the catering business as well but if you have a friend (or can make one) in that area it might save you some money. Especially if you get them to email or fax you a copy of the hotsheets they get from their vendors so you can see what's really cheap. Of course I don't know what your storage situation is either. I have the same problem as you with Ontario prices plus the additional expense of being in the north and in a fairly remote town which jacks the prices even more.

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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Do you have somebody with/at a restaurant that would let you order supplies on their invoice?
it might save you some money

And save wear and tear on the body and car, if they can deliver several items to one location :wacko:

that's my favorite part!

The Sharing Farm produce is just about finished for the year, except for some cabbages and a few hothouse greens. So, it's a good thing my program doesn't run in December. In order to meet our budget, we are probably using frozen peas or corn :unsure: for a while.

Karen Dar Woon

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I've spoken to them about getting donations, but since they are charging the seniors for a meal( 9.00), they dont feel right about getting donations.  The meal program is just one of the many things the agency does( home healthcare, housekeeping, driving, etc, etc).  The agency has a few fundraisers per year, but the money isnt earmarked specifically for the dining program. 

Maybe the donations could be for other programs, and then the funds "saved" reallocated to the dining program?

There is another "feed the hungry/out of the cold" program in our neighborhood which is having serious budget issues. Their budget is more like yours, about $2.25 pp, for 125 ppl. But they have a lot of volunteers, including volunteer Shoppers.

I've been surprised about what I've been able to put out with my budget, but as I said before, I run myself ragged shopping at different stores

Does your contract have a provision for car expenses or car allowance?

Karen Dar Woon

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I bought some of the ingredients for the baked penne today. The pasta was 1.00 a box, the sauce was 2.00. The ceasar dressing was 3.99 ( I had a .75cent coupon so 3.25). I picked up some shredded parm in MI. I also have bacon for the salad.

I'm debating whether or not to add Ricotta. I'll probably have enough money in the budget, but its 3.99 for 454 grams. I'd probably need 4 containers, if not more.

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With the holidays fast approaching, turkeys are often available as a "loss leader," sometimes as cheap as 30 cents a pound, or even free if you buy a certain amount of other items. I'd get four or five of those and stick them in a freezer. You can have the butcher saw them in half, so when you need an inexpensive meat, thaw out one of the halves. Just in case you're considering that - here are a few tips. The butchers have saws that can cut through frozen turkeys, so do that. They can't get through the metal fastener, though, so take your conjoined turkey halves home and cut through that with a metal cutter. They will expose the giblets, so dig them out and do whatever you want with them, or put them in a separate bag to make gravy or whatever when you cook your turkey half.

Say - just had a thought.

The number one cheap comfort dinner in Texas is probably King Ranch Chicken. I'll bet they'd like that. It sounds "ethnic," but it's delicious and even folks that don't like Mexian food at all happily gobble this down.

And after Thanksgiving, many many familes enlist this time-honored dish in order to help use up the leftover turkey.

Edited by Jaymes (log)

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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The number one cheap comfort dinner in Texas is probably King Ranch Chicken.  I'll bet they'd like that.  It sounds "ethnic," but it's delicious and even folks that don't like Mexian food at all happily gobble this down.

Hey, that sounds like a dish that my Mr. E might really get into -- although, knowing how adverse he is to spicy foods, I'd probably have to sub a mild paprika and regular stewed tomatoes for the chile powder and Rotel. But he loves stuff smothered in cream of mumble soup (my family's old nickname for those soups), so I bet this would be a winner.

He's such a creature of habit, though, is Mr. E. I have developed a "chili con carne" recipe that he likes lots--actually, I humorously call it "carne sin chile" since there is no hot stuff in it whatsoever, just all of the warm gentle spices like cumin, cinnamon, nutmeg, etc, which leaves it tasting somewhere in the direction of a Cincinnati style chili. Anyway, I made this for him last night, and decided on a whim to make mashed potatoes to serve it over. This really confused the heck out of him--in his head, chile is meant to be served in a bowl only, and absolutely never over anything. Even though he really liked the "chili", he couldn't help himself blurting out that it struck him as a "funny-looking" meal. I can only imagine what he would have thought if I'd tried to serve it over spaghetti like they do in Cincinnati. :rolleyes:

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With the holidays fast approaching, turkeys are often available as a "loss leader," sometimes as cheap as 30 cents a pound, or even free if you buy a certain amount of other items. I'd get four or five of those and stick them in a freezer. You can have the butcher saw them in half, so when you need an inexpensive meat, thaw out one of the halves. Just in case you're considering that - here are a few tips. The butchers have saws that can cut through frozen turkeys, so do that. They can't get through the metal fastener, though, so take your conjoined turkey halves home and cut through that with a metal cutter. They will expose the giblets, so dig them out and do whatever you want with them, or put them in a separate bag to make gravy or whatever when you cook your turkey half.

Not in Ontario thats for sure. The cheapest I've seen turkey is 1.79lb and thats for Utility. When I'm shopping in Port Huron, I see many Canadians buying the cheap turkeys. I usually buy one or two and bring it back as well, but I won't do that for the Seniors. We're doing the turkey roasts (boneless) this year for their xmas meal again. 3.70lb frozen.

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We're doing the turkey roasts (boneless) this year for their xmas meal again.  3.70lb frozen.

I feel so fortunate to not have to make a turkey dinner for our program. Neil "did the deed" while I was on holidays in October (Canadian Thanksgiving), using his restaurant kitchen and staff. But I recall contemplating how to cook whole or half turkeys for 100 in only two ovens. It was going to be boneless roasts for us, too.

Karen Dar Woon

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With the holidays fast approaching, turkeys are often available as a "loss leader," sometimes as cheap as 30 cents a pound, or even free if you buy a certain amount of other items. I'd get four or five of those and stick them in a freezer. You can have the butcher saw them in half, so when you need an inexpensive meat, thaw out one of the halves. Just in case you're considering that - here are a few tips. The butchers have saws that can cut through frozen turkeys, so do that. They can't get through the metal fastener, though, so take your conjoined turkey halves home and cut through that with a metal cutter. They will expose the giblets, so dig them out and do whatever you want with them, or put them in a separate bag to make gravy or whatever when you cook your turkey half.

Not in Ontario thats for sure. The cheapest I've seen turkey is 1.79lb and thats for Utility. When I'm shopping in Port Huron, I see many Canadians buying the cheap turkeys. I usually buy one or two and bring it back as well, but I won't do that for the Seniors. We're doing the turkey roasts (boneless) this year for their xmas meal again. 3.70lb frozen.

Obviously, I don't know about Ontario, but in the States, frozen turkeys are almost always offered as some sort of draw to bring in customers during the holidays. Many stores say that if you buy $25-50 worth of groceries, for example, you get a turkey free.

And my advice wasn't for the Thanksgiving dinner itself; but rather, to stick in the freezer to have cheap meat available for the next six months or so.

I always buy at least two additional frozen turkeys while they're on sale. I do have the butchers cut them in half. I wrap the halves separately and put them in the freezer. I drag them out throughout the year, and cook them in various ways. Sometimes I just roast a half in the oven for a family dinner, and use the bones and leftovers to make meals such as Turkey al la King, turkey spaghetti, curries, turkey soup, etc. I can get a week's worth of meals from one of those halves. And then in the springtime when the weather turns warm I'll cook one out on our bbq grill, and serve it with a congealed cranberry-apple salad.

But of course, if turkeys never go on sale in Ontario, that advice wouldn't be quite so helpful.

Edited by Jaymes (log)

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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