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Dorm Food Challenge: Making a 'snack' for 40 people

Hi everybody,

I live in a college dormitory and I'm faced with making a snack for a meeting of about 40-60 of the people that live in the same building. I'd like to do something slightly more original than a pan of brownies from a box, but nothing so complicated I'll be spending 7 hours in the kitchen.

I'd really appreciate suggestions for a fairly simple but delicous snack/dessert/etc that can feed lots of people. Salty or sweet, it doesn't really matter as long as it's a crowd pleaser.

Here are two possible limitations:

1) Cost. $20 is subsidized, the rest is out of my pockets. I'm willing to throw in a few bucks.

2) Kitchen. It's a shared kitchen with no dishwasher, a refrigerator and a single gas oven. Basic pots, pans, utensils. No electric mixers.

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  1. How about pita chips and hummus? You can buy everything from Costco if you have one nearby. Or you could make your own pita chips. Do a google search and you'll find lots of ways to add extra flavor to these. You could make hummus too, but you would need a blender or processor.

    Instead of hummus you could make a dip. Search on artichoke or sun-dried tomato dips for idea. There are plenty of dips based on frozen spinach, bean purees and/or various cheeses too. Salsas are also easy.

    If that's too plain, how about lemon bars? You can make these fairly easily. A mixer would help, but isn't essential to make the lemon curd. Shortbread cookies are also not too difficult and don't need any equipment beyond a mixing bowl.

    1. What about muddy buddies? the recipe's on the Chex website. it's basically rice chex, butter, peanut butter, chocolate chips, and powdered sugar. all you'd need is something to melt the butter and chocolate chips. i'm sure you could do it stove top if there's no microwave. people cannot stop eating this stuff and it's super easy to make in huge batches.

      1. garlic bread....

        bread (i would buy the cheapy stuff), butter/margarine, garlic powder or chopped garlic, top with parmesan cheese, chopped parsely sprinkled on top if you like....

        1 Reply
        1. re: mabziegurl

          With the garlic bread you could warm up some marinara for dipping. yummy!

        2. Bagels,cut-up fruit,vegetable platter, dips, chips, salsa,rice krispie treats, slice and bake cookies, Chex mix,fried won tons, pre-made frozen then deep fried taquitos with guacamole, those flour tortilla roll ups. I'm trying to think of all the goodies people bring to our monthly get togethers.... buffalo wings, mini burritos, nachos...

          1. Rice Krispy treats are easy, cheap and good. You could make 1 batch plain and one with chocolate chips or peanutbutter (or both!)

            Maybe chocolate truffles. Super easy and should cost about $10 for a big batch.

            1 pound good semisweet chocolate
            1 cup heavy cream
            1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
            2 tablespoons Grand Marnier, optional
            1 tablespoon prepared coffee, optional
            Cocoa powder

            Chop the chocolate finely with a sharp knife. Place in a heat-proof mixing bowl.
            Heat the cream in a small saucepan until it just boils. Turn off the heat and allow the cream to sit for 20 seconds. Pour the cream through a fine-meshed sieve into the bowl with chocolate. With a wire whisk, slowly stir the cream and chocolates together until the chocolate is completely melted. Whisk in the Grand Marnier, if using, coffee, and vanilla. Set aside at room temperature for 1 hour.

            With 2 teaspoons, spoon round balls of the chocolate mixture onto a baking sheet. Refrigerate for 30 minutes, until firm. Roll each dollop of chocolate in your hands to roughly make a round ball. Roll in cocoa powder. These will keep refrigerated for weeks, but serve at room temperature

            1 Reply
            1. re: Main Line Tracey

              Hee. Rice Krispie treats and Truffles. I dig the combination!

            2. spice up popcorn by adding different kinds of seasonings - its cheap to by a box of popcorn at walmart or target (10 bags or something like that for 4 bucks) and then add taco seasoning and hot sauce, cheese and garlic powder, and caramel or cinnamon. You have much versatility and the overhead is cheap. Hummus is yummy, but generally doesn't make much for cheap. But I love making my own tortilla chips and people love that they are from sratch. If you dont mind hanging out in the kitchen - buy a normal sized bottle of oil and the small tortilla shells - they are generally 4-5 inches in diameter and come in packages of 50 or 100 (i can get them at a local mexican run convenience store by me for 99 cents) - cut them into sixes and you have 6 hundred fresh and yummy chips for under 2 bucks and you can tell everyone you made them yourself. As a general tip if you dont like these ideas - go to the dollar store to see what they have there, lots of them have pretty decent food choices for the price.

              1. Someone made these for fellowship hour at church this past Sunday--they disappeared and they were SO cute and perfectly bite-size! The idea is similar to "pine bark" but without the butter, stovetop cooking, etc. Now, I realize that pecan halves might be expensive but one 8 ounce bag of them might not be too bad and oddly enough, Walgreens drug stores sells nuts at a pretty nice price most of the time and as you can see from the recipe, you can easily adjust to the number of treats you are making:

                60 mini pretzel twists
                60 rollo candies (chocolate covered caramels)
                60 pecan halves (you could even use toasted pecan halves or even walnut halves or even peanuts but some are allergic, I realize...possibilities are endless)

                Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Arrange little twists in single layer on baking sheet; top each one with one rollo candy. Bake for 5 minutes. Remove from oven and push a pecan half down onto top of somewhat melty rollo candy. Let set for 3 minutes and then refrigerate to further set.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Val

                  I think kim shook posted this idea a while back, and she used the little checkerboard pretzel shapes, which I think would hold the chocolate and caramel a little better than the twists. (I haven't tried this yet, but it sounds good... one of my favorite ice cream treats has chocolate custard with pretzels and caramel mixed in!)

                2. A couple ideas...

                  These are called quick energy pickups I haven't made them in a while so im not sure the exact measurements but I dont think it will matter all that much...Mix peanut butter, chocolate chips, and some crushed graham cracker until its a doughy consistency. Roll into 1 inch balls. Roll balls in additional crushed graham crackers.
                  Make it healthier with reduced fat peanut butter and graham crackers...

                  Or you could try this dip. Spread cream cheese in the bottom of the pan or container you are making the dip in(1 block is usually good for a 9x9 inch pan) spread over the top one can of chili with beans(I go with the mild)...top with shredded cheese(those mexican blends are good but you can go with any shredded cheese)...heat in either the microwave or oven until cheese is melted...REMEMBER!! If you are using a metal pan DO NOT use the microwave...
                  Make it healthier with reduced fat cream cheese, turkey chili, and reduced fat shredded cheese...

                  Both these are very easy to make and both crowd pleasers. ALso, they both have protein..I too live in a dorm and understand how important it is to have protein rich snacks to keep energy up and avoid crashing...Good luck!

                  1. Here's something that is ridiculously easy, but people always think you worked really hard on it.

                    Line the bottom of a pan a layer of whole graham crackers. Mix up a couple of big boxes of french vanilla instant pudding. When the pudding is set, fold in a container of cool whip. Pour pudding on top of crackers, then put another layer of crackers on top of the pudding. You can do another layer of pudding and crackers if you like, but you spread a can of chocolate frosting over the top layer of crackers. This is called a chocolate eclair cake.

                    1. How experienced a cook are you? Cheap and easy don't always have to go together, you can put together some really fantastic stuff on a budget without relying as heavily on processed foods if you know your way around a kitchen, even a minimally equipped one.

                      1. I am confused...you are expected to actually feed between 40 and 60 people for roughly .33$...stick with popcorn and water. All the suggestions here are good, but unless you are able to match the $20 or double it stick to popcorn and flavorings.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: yummyinmytummy

                          I hope the OP is asking for something to contribute to a pot luck and isn't expected to feed all those people alone? Smithclay, please clarify?

                          1. re: Terrie H.

                            It's just a snack and everyone involved will have already had dinner.

                            As for the large number of people, 60 would probably be the worst case scenario. If I wait a few weeks, it will be more like 30 people.

                        2. Assuming you're not blessed with the convenience of Sam's club or the like, I'd suggest making Chex mix the old fashioned way - from scratch - the recipe is on the box of any Chex cereal included in the recipe (i.e. Corn Chex). It only takes a few ingredients easily found at the grocery and is done in a jiffy. It's a common crowd-pleaser...I couldn't keep the stuff around for long in college.

                          Then get creative - add in some nuts (peanuts are cheap, smoked almonds are divine - whatever your budget can bear)and M&M's - peanut butter & plain are good options. This makes a ton of "hand-grabable" snacks that can easily be served in dixie cups. Just dump batches into buckets, pails or bowls. Hey - if you need more storage containers for your room anyway, serve this in new clean storage containers (you know, the clear plastic see-thru ones?) and then after the event, you have more storage options & haven't wasted the $$$. I always needed the photo box size for pencils, toiletries, boxes of dried foods, tea bags, etc.

                          Good luck & have fun more than anything else. If you DO have a Sam's membership, get the "Pub Mix" from the chips & pretzels section (Utz brand) and add the nuts & M&M's. It's faster and can be considered 'semi-hommade'. No cooking at all required - and CHEAP!

                          Another tid bit of advice...don't try to make 'enough to fill 'em up'. Remember it's supposed to be a snack...not a meal. Don't go overboard on amounts - leave them wanting more and you'll be remembered as serving a snack they 'couldn't get enough of'..and you won't have wasted $$$ on food that didn't get eaten. Ciao! ...er, I mean chow!

                          1. The only way I can see you doing this for so many people with so little money is to do a bean dip using dried, soaked beans (really cheap) and toasted home-made pita chips. This is a ridiculous budget; crap junk food costs lots more, so why are you so constrained to present a quality food item? The people behind this need to re-evaluate their priorities.

                            1. How about an ice cream bar? Just buy big costco tubs of ice cream with crushed cookies, sprinkles, choco chips, sauces as toppings (or use cereals as potential offerings, since the dorms generally have these on sit or at least at the dining hall).

                              Otherwise, if that's not enough cooking, do quesadillas.

                              1. make lots of chicken thighs? tacos with ground beef?

                                1. Well, your budget is really tight -- I mean 50 cents a person?! Plus I'm assuming that you want to avoid having to buy paper plates and cups and plastic serveware, so that basically leaves you with finger foods.

                                  You might be able to pull off bruschetta. Slice up several baguettes into rounds and toast in the oven. Top with diced tomato mixture (tomatoes, red onion, garlic, basil, olive oil, salt and pepper) and white beans with rosemary (cans of small white beans mixed with rosemary -dried or fresh- and garlic topped with olive oil). If you have enough in the budget, you can also make a eggplant or olive tapenade for a third topping option. Or a mashed pumpkin or sweet potato topping.

                                  Another is deviled eggs. All you need are a bunch of boiled eggs, sliced in half. Take the yolks and mix them up with green onions and spices. Refill the egg whites.

                                  Gougeres, which is just a fancy way of saying cheese puffs. Not difficult, cheap ingredients, fancy looking and tasting. You can make them ahead and freeze them and just re-heat before serving. The only disadvantage is that people can't eat just one. You will have to make a ton.

                                  If you were willing to put in a lot of work to really wow, you could make sea salt caramels. Your biggest expense would be real butter and decent sea salt. But you need some equipment and a whole afternoon.

                                  But if you really want to take the low-energy, low cost, low-clean up method, flavored popcorn as mentioned above by another poster is the easy way out. Cheese, cayenne, curry, caramel. Lots of choices here.

                                  1. Corn bread seasoned with a bit of heat & drizzled with honey? Should be very inexpensive, easy to make in large pans. Cut into manageable rectangles and all that should be needed are paper napkins that will double as plates.

                                    If you heat the honey just a bit it will pour easily and go far.