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Cooking for Homeless Shelter

I have been providing food for a homeless shelter housing about 12 adults. This month, like last, I have been "assigned" the main dish. The food is to be dropped off in the morning, refrigerated and served that evening after being heated in on oven. Last month I made a chicken sausage, onion, bell pepper melange which was very popular. I'm trying to come up with a different dish this month - not too costly, not too exotic, that can be prepared the day before, and held until reheating before serving. One other caveat: I deliver it in a disposable alum. foil pan, so I'm looking for something that I can either prepare in one, or transfer to one for reheating. I was thinking of a paella of sorts or arroz con pollo. Any other ideas?

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  1. Ellen, I have volunteered at a soup kitchen for 12 years and almost any comfort/diner meals get rave reviews. Mots of the people there have limited palates and they seek known food that is filling and not overly spicy. We usually feed 75-80 people 3 courses on a budget of $35-40, plus donations.

    I'm not sure where you live, but pot pies/shepherds pies are well received. Beef stronganoff and stews go over well. Chicken and dumplings goes over very well.
    Any sort of lasagna/filled pasta always ends up with no leftovers.
    Scratch pizza is fantastic if you have the time. I make 1 with cheese and pepperoni, and 1 with sausage/pepperoni and mushrooms.
    Meatloaf and scalloped potatoes gets rave reviews.
    I did pulled pork BBQ with sides of beans and slaw and they loved it.

    The menus that don't do well are vegetarian or ethnic cuisines that aren't native or popular in the area. Fresh veggies are abundant now and they are well received and stretch the available food dollar.

    I want to thank you for helping others, and hope that many of those on Chowhound with the time and resources would consider doing the same.

    1. Good for you! Items I've prepared in the last volunteer kitchen (Which was almost 100% based on donations):

      Layered Mexican casserole: Spanish rice (tomato, bay, peppers, cumin), refried beans, spinach, sauteed peppers, meat of some sort (optional), olives, cheese (just make sure not to pack down the layers too much so that it takes a reasonable time to reheat through)

      Pepper steak

      Along the same lines as chicken and dumplings- Chicken pot pie (kept pastry topping unheated until just before service)

      Pasta primavera (I put some white beans in this dish, which surprised a lot of people- fortunately in a good way :)

      Pumpkin and spinach lasagna made with white sauce instead of red

      Chili macaroni and cheese- stewed tomatoes, macaroni, ground meat or beans, chili powder, garlic, topped with cheese (this we actually did with a large donation of ground venison that no one wanted to use! It went over well.)

      That's all I can think of off the top of my head- good luck!

      1. Laurie Colwin writes in her Home Cooking book that colcannon went over like a lead balloon with the homeless women she was cooking for :) The only thing I've seen fail here is rye bread--universally hated.

        1. I have been doing this monthly for 3 years for a women's place and we love getting to cook for a group. Much more variety than cooking for two of us and of course we get to eat what we make. The rules for my group are absolutely no cooking with alchohol and meat must be cooked thoroughly. I buy the aluminum foil pans at Costco and they are very inexpensive when bought in bulk.
          I try to be seasonal. Last night we made a cold salad with pasta and grilled chicken in a
          spicy ranch dressing- the forecast was for 90 today. Meatball subs are good in the warm weather. I buy a local rice pilaf mix on sale and doctor it with veggies and serve with oven baked chicken legs (I make my own shake and bake) - they are really popular. I try to avoid tomato sauce and pasta as they get a lot of that. I often fall back on a giant meatloaf and mashed or oven baked potato. (Salad and veg is provided by another person). Macaroni and cheese is my vegetarian entree. Over the years we have resurrected tuna casserole, Rotel chicken spaghetti,
          cowboy baked beans, spanish rice, and other comfort foods from our past. I look for loss leaders like the 99 cents a pound hotel turkey breast and freeze it and I also but Italian sausage in bulk for a sausage bake. I'm quite fond of the All Recipes site for ideas and proportions as I can pump in my available ingredients and get some good suggestions.
          http://allrecipes.com/

          1. Have you seen the tuna noodle casserole on the Chow site? It looks really good. It's a comfort food for me:

            http://www.chow.com/recipes/10889

            1 Reply
            1. re: chowser

              I encourage everyone to try the Chow tuna noodle recipe! It's really great...we loved it; I'm sure that the Old Bay Seasoning and dijon mustard are what gives it such a great flavor.