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Large Quantitity, Low Cost Brainstorming
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Hello Kitchen Commander Oliver here, you might have seen some of my work posted around, keeping everyone fed up here on the Lab. With a month of wofati workshops coming up I am going to be doing a lot of large meals (15-25 heads) just wanted to get some fresh and frugal ideas in to add to my repertoire.

Some rough brainstorming has left me with:
-Red Beans and rice
-Chicken fried rice
-pasta salads
-Spag and sauce
-chicken and mazto soup
-leek and tater soup

Looking for paleo, gluten and dairy-free options but I am open to any and all ideas

We're feeding 50 or so tomorrow at church... pork and beans. Go ahead and snicker about flatulence, but it's delicious, satisfying, and makes your pork dollar go a long way. Bread and salad and you're ready.

We do this every week (I mean, not just us- it's a rotation), so other winners include taco bars and meat stews. The key to getting people satisfied is meat. The key to low cost is having just a little bit of meat. You put the two of those together, and you end up with meals where you get a tiny little bit of meat in every bite. So, pork and beans. Tacos. Stews. You get some meat, but the majority is the "everything else."
Along the same lines, a Chinese stir-fry allows a whole chicken to feed a bunch of people.

Oh-oh, you asked for it!

Indian curry-chickpeas make an awesome vegetarian curry.
I rarely make all-meat curries, it's generally a combo of meat/legumes or meat/potatoes.
I love spicy food, some don't. For a group, I'd make it mild and have a bowl of chopped chillies for me
Then there's the rice, raita, chillies, pickles...

South-East Asian curry like Massaman beef curry. Amp up the potato content to keep it cheap
Another opportunity for bowls of stuff...

I'm pretty sure I've seen photos of your roast root-ish vegetables.
As long as there's plenty of potatoes and/or winter squash,it's a great lunch.
With meat/eggs/cheese, it's dinner.
Even better with garlic mayo.
And a green salad

Can you get lots of eggs? A giant frittata is always good.

A vat of wet polenta (maybe call it grits ) chicken and something green.
If you make enough, you can spread it on trays while it's hot, let it set,
cut it and fry/roast it for lunch the next day.
Great with salad, especially if there's beetroot/cheese/herbs involved...

corned beef or mutton can be really frugal.
If you're doing anything 'Mexican-ish', I highly recommend Myron's Mexican-pickled-vegetables
It only takes a few days for them to be 'ready enough', and you can add/subtract pretty much anything you like.

I'll be back...

Less expensive meats include: Ham, Boston butt, pork shoulder, turkey
$20 would bring 10-20 pounds, but it would probably not be organic.

Pirogi can be done with no meat or meat blended with the potato stuffing. Gluten free flour for the dough. Leave out the sour cream in the topping mix. Lots of ways to make this.
Delicious, FILLING, good calories for a hard days work, just a little more expensive than dirt.
Gluten-Free Pierogi Recipe

Potato Pancakes (Latke)
No end to the variety possible with these. Made without added flour they are naturally gluten free. No Dairy.
Gluten-Free Potato Pancakes

Up in New England we grew up with Red Flannel Hash
It is typically made with some combination of ham, bacon, or brisket, often made with no meat. If its a root vegetable, in it goes. Beets for the color
Red Flannel Hash

Yankee Boiled Dinner
Put a ham, brisket or sausage in a pot with cabbage, potatoes, onions, carrots, boil it up. In my opinion it's gotta have a rutabaga in there or it aint fit for eatin. Gotta make this so you have the leftovers to make the Red Flannel Hash.
Yankee Boiled Dinner

Pea Soup
Only slightly more complicated than leaving a dark pot of water in the sun to warm up. Add meat, it's a meal. Don't add meat, it's still a meal.
It would make a fine side dish.

Deviled Eggs
Because humans will eat the hell out of them.

If this was all you served, I'd be happy. Bacon + Cheese and you've got the four food groups beat.

Fried Potato
Slice potato 1/4-1/2" thick. Boil until mostly done-should have some resistance when poking with a fork. If they fall apart you'll have to make mashed potato. Drain. Heat up a cast iron skillet with some pork fat or bacon grease, fry them slices until browned and just starting to get crispy on the outside. Adding caramelized onion will make you think you are falling in love. Add more stuff to it (bacon, ham, sausage, brisket, carrot, turnip, beets) and it starts to become Red Flannel Hash.

It's as good or better than rice and just as versatile, plus faster to cook. If you can do it with rice, you can do it with quinoa.

Zuchinni Parmesan
It's summer. You have a metric ton of zukes available, look in unlocked cars. There's cheese in there and the more there is the more I like it. Prepare in layers.
-Start with a layer of tomato sauce so it won't stick to the pan. Lots of vegs in the sauce gives me a warm feeling.
-sliced zuke or yellow squash. Eggplant is possible but needs to be well seared beforehand.
-splash of sauce
-a meat layer can be added, perhaps sliced sausage or pepperoni
-a pasta layer can be added
-splash of sauce
-top with cheese if the whim hits you or a layer of garlic cloves for that extra kick in the ribs
Bake at 3500 until fork tender, perhaps 45 minutes for a deep dish
Zuke can be rolled in cracker meal or corn meal
Bottom of pan can be lined with croutons to absorb excess sauce

Roasted Garlic
Makes an excellent appetizer. Peel garlic, splash with oil, roast until fork tender.
---> DISCLAIMER: Do not serve this until the last meal on the last day.

Frozen Banana
Peel then cut bananas about as long as they are wide so they will freeze quickly. Freeze. When frozen, dump them into a blender or food processor. Pulverize until smooth or mostly smooth texture. Serve immediately.
Better than ice cream. Excellent on pie.

Chicken a la King
Turkey Tetrazini
Shepard's Pie
Pot Pies
Chop Suey/Chili Mac
Chili and Chips
Hummus and Chips
Hoppin' John
Creole Rice & Red Beans
Vegetarian Paella
Pesto Pasta

Oliver Casson-Gary wrote:
-chicken and mazto soup

This is one of the keys to my relatively low cost Passover Seder where I feed at least 30. Excellent chicken soup (really culled rooster soup) and mazto balls make the brisket & lamb go much further because you can only eat so much after 2 matzo balls.

However... this has to be for dinner. You can't serve it for lunch and expect much work out of anybody later! My theory for the lack of Jewish football players? Sure, you can try out for the football team Hershel, just come home after school for a nice little bowl of soup before tryouts. Potential NFL star decides to read a book after soup instead!

Oliver Casson-Gary wrote:
Looking for paleo, gluten and dairy-free options but I am open to any and all ideas

This is really going to be difficult, especially if people aren't on board with Paleo but the more fat you include the less carbs people should need - if they are listening to their bodies.
Potato salad.

Or yuca. Or sweet potatoes. Or ├▒ame. Or any other big starchy tuber that softens up when you boil it for a while.

After you cook your cubes of starch to soften them up, drain them and let them cool and then you can add chopped eggs, chopped olives, chopped onions, chopped celery, chopped bell peppers, capers (they're small enough you don't have to chop them), and some chopped herbs like dill or summer savory. Then add enough mayonnaise/salad dressing to bind it all together.
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Well, we have a big family so your meals sizes sound normal.

Breakfast is oats or soft wheat, sort of Irish oats style. We have our own flaker so we make it fresh. But first I take some whole groats or wheat and toast it in plenty of coconut oil until they pop or get really toasty brown, then add plenty of water and let them soak up to big and soft (but still chewy). Could add any nut, fruit, or whatever you like. Add honey, sugar, salt and regular oatmeal and let it hydrate. The extra fat makes it really keep you going until lunch.

Beans and rice is a staple here.

A favorite is loaded mashed potatoes--made with chicken stock, plenty of coconut oil or butter, and add a little bacon and cheese and YUM. I can fill the whole family up for 75 cents/head if I buy everything (organic even).

Fried cabbage is another practically free meal from the kitchen garden.

Sawmill gravy whenever we have extra milk.

We love hash. Harvest hash with a couple eggs sunny side up will make me happy every time.

Then we have "junk soup" which is pretty much any of the above leftovers turned into soup or stew plus whatever veggies need to get used.

We also do chicken three ways:
-Meal one is roasted chicken (all day in the crockpot or electric roaster) and whatever sides.
-Meal two is chicken salad sandwiches and the bones get turned into stock.
-Meal three is chicken noodle soup or chicken and dumplings.

We get all that from about a pound of bird per person.
Posole stew (use chicken, turkey or pulled pork)

Mole (again, just about any meat)

Pulled pork

meatloaf (good cold for lunch on hot days)

stacked enchilada casserole (corn tortillas and/or thin zucchini slices if you want zero grains)

Chicken with 40 cloves of garlic

Bust out those dutch ovens for chili

Nicoise type salad: greens, a meat (tuna is traditional, but we use whatever cold meat we have), hard boiled eggs, cheese, green beans and sliced potatoes, a pickled veg. This is good when it's hot.)

Does Wheaton Enterprises own a 5 gallon ice cream maker? Maybe someone will bring one. mmmm strawberry lemon sorbet

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Lentils! Good in soup, mixed into veggie burgers or semi veggie burgers, over rice, really good wrapped in lettuce or other leaves. Inexpensive and satisfying.

Millet is the most inexpensive grain here and it is delicious if you toast in in a dry pan before cooking in washer or broth. Not paleo, but gluten free!

Big salad! Do you have greens you are foraging for? Sunflower seeds are am inexpensive way to make salad heartier.

Nut butter and honey and butter sandwiches are a good lunch but not gluten free unless the bread is.

Fermented pickles make everything better.

Lasagna is great for a crowd. It's easy doing meat/veggie versions and if you use potatoes instead of pasta it's gluten-free (ok, now it's a gratin)
those vats of tomato, bolognaise and bechamel sauce, can be used for so many things!
tomato sauce on 'hippie pizza'- a really thick wholewheat base (nearly bread with a baked-on topping of your choice,
although any pizza of mine must include cheese)
Bolognaise. Say no more.
Well actually...Baked potatoes with a big selection of toppings like Bolognaise, bechamel, chilli beans, cheese, salads,
Bechamel: mac and cheese of course!
Leila brings up a good point- a variety of toppings! We've been feeding a crowd here lately and different dietary restrictions make things complicated! We've been doing a lot of "build your own" types of meals.

Big salad, like I said above
Grains and legumes

Another great cheap food is sprouts. A couple of tablespoons of seeds makes a huge pile of sprouts. I've been sprouting more seeds than the jar fits and then using then as they grow. It's like the loaves and fishes! Never empty.

Not an organic food family but we do cook from scratch.
Leg quarters are the cheapest meat I can find.
I start with a huge pan(mine is a black iron skillet).
Oil it and layer slices of potatoes and onions. Spice the leg quarters by rubing the spices under the skin.
Bake on top of the bed of onions and potatoes at 500 degrees.
The chicken will be great but the omions and potatoes cooked in chicken fat will be amazing!

Again with the leg quarters, boil them in salted and spiced water till done,
Throw them on thr grill for crisping, use the fatty broth for dumplings.

Pizza is mostly the cost of the cheese, the rest is cheap, even the meats.
Humus is my favorite substitute, others are expensive and disappointing. Humus aint cheese but it is cheap ,tasty and creamy.

Don't forget black bean soup with some hocks that are hiding in the freezer somewhere.
I do versions of an Asian style braise-beef shin or brisket is great, but any braising cut of beef, chicken or pork is delicious.
A Middle Eastern mezze spread-big bowls of tabouli, quinoa/bean/lentil salads, hummus, baba ghanoush, yoghurt and beetroot dip, hard boiled eggs, cold chicken, olives, bread...
Roast pumpkin soup: roast whole pumpkins til soft-a lot easier than trying not to take off a hand
Adding coconut cream makes it awesome!

It's nice to have pudding sometimes.
My standbyes for a crowd are fruit crisps/cobblers/steamed puddings served with cream and/or custard
I grew up with very oldschool rice pudding: leftover rice, sultanas and creamy milk sprinkled with brown sugar and cinnamon and baked till it formed a love-it-or-hate-it skin.
This works great as a great breakfast and a social time.

Prepare all the elements for the most diverse omlettes you can imagine, chopped and diced or shredded and in small serving bowls lined up on a table. At the end of the table is a large canning pot of boiling water. At the head of the table are eggs and double seal freezer bags. Guests and residents put their name on the bag and then crack however many eggs they want in the freezer bags adn then drop in whatever omlette fixin's they want. Zip the bag closed and shake it up a bit, toss bag in the big pot of boiling water. Everyone stands around chatting about stuff and the making of the omlettes in bags, and watching them roll around in the deep boiling water. They can see when the eggs are done and simply use tongs to get them out and unzip them and PRESTO, the omlette slides right out of the bag onto a plate and the cook didn't do nothing but chop up fixin's and everyone has fun doing it. Less to clean up, too!

Here's a link to one of many videos on YouTube showing this approach ...
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