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soup & bread recipes for soup-kitchen type cafe?

Hi folks, we're starting a volunteer-run soup cafe (free) where we expect to feed 25-30 people each Monday at lunch. We have the great good fortune of having a restaurant owner giving guidance, but I'd still love to hear what you know. I thought I'd read posts from people who've done this but can't find them by using the search feature. We are planning to serve soup and a bread (cornbread, biscuit, etc.) and to send leftovers home in to-go containers. I would love advice of all kinds, but especially:

--recipes that have been particularly popular?

--unexpected things you learned along the way

--touches that take the soup from filling to delightful

Thanks so much for your help!

PS We're doing this out of a local church--we have the church all day on Mondays, but not at all on Sundays. Do you find a need to do a lot of prep/precooking (beans, rice, etc.) the day before?

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  1. Long ago in hippie days I occasionally let groups of young travelers (hippies!) stay overnight --"crash pad" was the term-- and usually served this:
    Big stockpot Campbell's Bean with Bacon soup (maybe 10-12 cans + equal amount water), scrambled eggs (2-3 dozen at a time), whatever bread/rolls were available at 10pm from grocery, and hard candy. Nobody didn't like it, but this was 40 years ago.
    So maybe inexpensive protein is a good place to start-- and thanks for the memory!
    This is an online recipe for "Campbell's" bean with bacon-
    who knows, could be very nice.

    1. What a lovely project! I hope you succeed.

      Try Lahey's no knead bread if you can do it in the quantities you need. It is perfect for soup.

      I assume you want cheap soups, so I suggest the peasant cuisine of various countries:

      caldo verde
      minestrone [named after the fact that it was given out in soup kitchens]
      pinto beans [rick bayless has a good one in mexican food everyday]
      I also suggest using whole grains in the soups to make them stretch more and make them more nourishing.

      etc. What makes these soups good are the the extras: the bread, the cheese, and so one. Of course, this all depends upon what the people like to eat. A little bit of meat fried initially adds to the flavor a lot.

      Finally, the book 'soups of italy' by norma wasserman-miller is like a bible to me for how to make inexpensive, but flavorful soups. She talks about soup in 3 phases: frying the flavors, adding the broth and then adding on extras on top.

      1. Since this meal is presumably these folks' main nutrition for the day, you should use beans, barley, brown rice, and other whole grains as much as possible. You don't need more than 4-6 soups, with the weekly schedule. If the church has real dishes and utensils, that might elevate the meal to something special - they probably see a lot of paper, styrofoam, and plastic. If someone were willing to take responsibility for bringing in real cloth napkins and laundering them weekly, that would also help - you might have to make it clear that these napkins are not "to go". Garnishing the servings of soup would be easy and nice. As I posted elsewhere, after not using foil muffin cups because they are a mess to peel off, I learned that the paper dividers they are packaged with should be left in place. Using these, you can load up a parchment-lined sheet pan with cups and use an ice cream scoop to dollop in the batter, so you can bake dozens at one time, with nothing to clean up. There are recipes for rolls baked in muffin cups that could be used here, and savory muffins like corn and oatmeal.

        1. Take a look at the cookbook - Twelve Months of Monastery Soups. There are lots of hearty, inexpensive options there.

          One thing to be aware of - in our state you cannot send leftovers home after a free meal like that - it violates the law. We used to give the leftovers away after the AIDS luncheon at our church but had to stop. The idea is that we were potentially exposing our guests to food poisoning. It was a terrible shame - we had to toss good food out and we had people there who really needed and wanted it. I'm in New York - I don't know where you are but you might look into that. Good luck with your project - God knows people need the help these days.

          4 Replies
          1. re: lupaglupa

            lupaglupa, thanks for the tips--will definitely check out that cookbook. And will need to check the legalities on leftovers. It's incredible how often these "protecting people" laws end up hurting them more than helping.

            1. re: miss louella

              I try to understand whay the gov't is doing - maybe people would send very marginal food out and the recipients would get sick. But there ought to be a way to deal with it that isn't wasting the food which is right there ready for people who need it.

              1. re: miss louella

                It's really a shame, I agree, but it probably has more to do with the fact that the folks you are giving the soup to don't have refrigeration facilities to store the soup for another meal. I wonder if any leftover soup could be frozen and then added to the batch for the following Monday's soup cafe?

              2. re: lupaglupa

                How odd - we have similar laws here in Florida too. Groups that wanted to create food on their own to serve the homeless got shut down as well.

              3. How wonderful of you, I would love to do something like or be a part of it.

                I have a great recipe for Pasta E fagioli (it's Giada's) and I add kielbasa or sausage to give it more heartiness but the beans and pasta in it are great on their own as well.http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/gi...

                1. What you're doing is so great- and I'm sure the folks would be appreciative.

                  I love the idea of making a hearty, filling soup with extra piled on top.

                  My favorite soup is a tomato soup with veggies and tortellini. As a topping, you can make parmesan crisps.

                  Or you can do an Asian-style chicken soup with noodles, mushrooms, shredded chicken, veggies and crisp wontons as a topper.

                  Some advice- find out if any local businesses will be willing to help out. When I volunteered with a soup kitchen in high school, I was shocked at what shops would give me when I asked. A local fruit store would give us bruised melons, which we would turn into a chunky fruit salad. A bakery gave us rolls that were 'imperfect' and broken cookies. We used to broken cookies as an ice cream topping or as the bottom of a cheesecake. If there's a fresh pasta or tortilla place near you, they make give you their imperfects.. doesn't matter though because it's likely getting chopped up. good luck!!

                  1. I made a great lentil soup this weekend - chicken stock, onions, carrots, lentils and chopped kilbasa in a crock pot for about 4 hours. It was amazing. Gave it a little whirr at the end with an imersion blender and it couldn't have been better. Cheap andn filling, too, and the meat makes it spectacular.

                    1. These days when I want to make a split pea or lentil soup I buy a frozen ham bone from the Honeybaked Ham store. (Note: sometimes there's a LOT of meat on them so it's best to defrost first and cut some of that off for another use). But I used to do what Mom did, which was to buy what is locally called a Daisy Butt or Daisy Ham - it is a roll about 3" in diameter and around 8" long, easily spotted in the refrigerated meat case by its thick red plastic casing. There was always one waiting in our freezer. She sliced it a little less than a half-inch thick and simmered it with the legumes and other veggies, then removed it. It can be diced and returned to the soup but I find it a little too smoky and salty, so let the dogs have it. If I recall correctly, it is pretty cheap and imparts plenty of flavor to the soup; I think I used half a roll for 4 qts of soup.

                      1. Quick update--first off, thanks everyone, for your kind words and good advice! We've had two lunches so far--served 57 on our first go and just about that on our second. But we were ready. Week one we served beef/mushroom/noodle soup and tomato soup--along with three different kinds of breads. Week two we served 3 sisters soup (with a chipotle kick) and potato leek soup. Along with four aMAZing breads. All to raves and gratitude. The trick so far hasn't had too much to do with food--it's arranging the tables in a way that makes conversation not just easy but necessary.

                        Thanks again. The adventure continues!

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: miss louella

                          Good for you! I'm so glad it has gone well - it is certainly needed these days.

                          1. re: miss louella

                            I was searching on soup kitchens and found your thread. How's it going? Have you been serving hot soup this summer? My mom used to make chicken gumbo at the soup kitchen she volunteered with in Louisiana. She also made little frozen fruit salads in muffin cups. Hope your group is thriving.

                            1. re: lterzia

                              Hi there! Thanks for asking! It's going gangbusters--we had a peak of 131 the Monday before Memorial day and have been consistently between 75-85 all summer long. And yeah, mostly hot soups and fresh bread. We have had a few chilled soups and folks like them when they try them but most don't taste the chilled one. (No big deal, since we have at least 3 flavors of soup every Monday.) I'm gearing up for the Fall when we think things may ramp up again. It's been surprisingly nice and easy hovering around 80. (Never thought I'd say 80 was easy in a million years.)

                              Like just about everyone else in the country, I'm trying to figure out new ways to use up the abundant zucchini; the grilled corn and zucchini soup went over really well, but my grill's uncooperative right now. So I'm thinking of giving this zucchini, potato and cilantro soup from epi http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo... a try. Anyone have other ideas or tips???

                              1. re: miss louella

                                ML...first off, I must say how truly humane and wonderful your efforts are...thank God for people such as yourself. Thank you, also, for what you are doing.

                                That epi recipe looks gorgeous and with such few, simple ingredients and a rousing 100% would make it again, glowing reviews all around...I'm trying it tomorrow! Here's one for you to consider...not sure if it's practical because of the blending/pureeing at the end but what the hey...I tried this last weekend and we LOVED it...very few ingredients and quite healthy, just offering it to you in case it's feasible and I realize that it may not be:


                                1. re: Val

                                  Yum, that looks wonderful! And completely feasible for a do-ahead & warm-up soup. Thanks so much for pointing me this direction. (And thanks for the good thoughts--I love doing this--wouldn't be able to think of doing it if it felt like a chore instead of a joy. And there are legions of folks in town supporting us in one way or another. Really a community effort.)

                                  Anyway, I am still (always) open for more recipes or ideas--have gotten really good at multiplying and (where needed) simplifying, so please keep those ideas coming!!

                          2. Chicken & Dumplings

                            Mulligatawny w/ naan bread.

                            I know at most farmers markets, farmers hate to take home unsold vegetables. You may be able to work out a deal with a local farmer(s) for them to donate, or sell at a super-reduced cost, there leftover vegetables. Just an idea.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: lynnlato

                              Yum! Do you have a mulligatawny recipe I might start from?

                              We are very fortunate -- there's a local group that grows explicitly for their produce to be given away. And many of the local farmers are happy to share any abundance they have.

                              Life is good. AND I'm always looking for new recipes/methods/ideas.

                              Thanks to all in advance and in arrears!

                              1. re: miss louella

                                Here is loose recipe. Sometimes I put apples in, sometimes not. I usually don't do the lentils for dietary restriction reasons, but its really good with them. If you leave them out, cut back on your stock a bit. Oh, and add a teaspoon of garam masala for a little extra something special. Enjoy!

                                Mulligatawny Soup

                                saute in olive oil :

                                1 or two diced carrots
                                1 or two diced celery stalks,
                                1 medium onion, roughly chopped

                                until nicely cooked, onions translucent, carrots pretty soft.

                                add 1 or 2 chopped apples- cook briefly.

                                Take off heat.

                                Wisk in:

                                2 or 3 teaspoons Madras curry powder
                                1 teas. powdered ginger, or about a Tbls grated fresh ginger
                                1 teas. cumin
                                1 teas corriander
                                a few shakes of tumeric
                                ground black pepper
                                2 or 3 minced cloves of garlic
                                1 Tbls flour.

                                If you like it hotter, add some cayenne pepper at this point 1/4 teas.

                                Return to heat. Stir until spices are fragrant.

                                Start whisking in about

                                1 quart chicken stock plus 2-3 cups more

                                Add :
                                1 cup lentils
                                3 or 4 diced red potatoes (or omit)
                                chopped chicken meat.

                                Salt to taste. Bring to boil and then simmer for 30 mins or more. Add a can of coconut milk.

                                When soup is done, finish with the juice of 1 lemon.

                            2. I've been hard using a copy of the "NYT Bread and Soup Cookbook" by Yvonne Young Tarr since it came out in 1976. It's got tons of soup and bread recipes from around the world and covers the gamut from the simplest of soups and breads to famous restaurant concoctions. Used copies are available at Amazon for around $7: http://www.amazon.com/gp/offer-listin...

                              1. Just recently found this recipe on the weight watchers website - posted by a user not WW... it's filling, easy and really tasty. I think it would be really simple to multiply. The original recipe also called for a packet of ranch dressing mix, but I don't think it's necessary.
                                bless you for doing such a wonderful thing for others!

                                Chicken Taco Soup

                                3-4 frozen chicken breasts
                                1 envelope taco seasoning mix
                                1 medium onion, diced
                                1/2 jar salsa (or 1 can diced tomatoes)
                                1 can black beans
                                1 can cannelli (or any white) beans
                                1 can kidney beans
                                1 can vegetarian baked beans
                                1 can kernel corn

                                Put everything in crockpot in order listed. Do NOT rinse or drain beans. Do NOT stir. Cook on low for 6 to 8 hours. Take chicken out and shred with two forks. Put chicken back in, stir, and eat. Freezes well.

                                1. Tortellini Soup, I serve this every year at my Christmas party. It is easy and so delicious.
                                  serves 6
                                  1 lb Italian sausage casings removed
                                  2 red bell peppers chopped
                                  1 white onion diced
                                  2 med cloves garlic
                                  1/2 tsp oregano
                                  4 tbs dried parsley
                                  48 oz chicken broth
                                  40 oz water
                                  15 oz tomato sauce
                                  2 packages small tortellini
                                  2 cups chopped zucchini

                                  Brown the sausage in a large stock pot, add the onions and bell peppers, cook 10 min, add garlic cook for 5 min, add broth, water, tomato sauce and herbs. Simmer 1 hour add the zucchini and tortellini to the pot, cook for 10 minutes. ready to serve with some flat bread and cheese.

                                  1. I've been thinking about liver lately - dang, none fresh available in the supermarket this week, not even chicken livers! When making lentil soup last night I thought about creating a lentil soup with liver dumplings instead of my standard diced kielbasa. Not sure if such a recipe already exists. The dumplings would need to be made first, in water or stock, and reserved to the side while the lentils and other vegetables cooked, before being returned to the pot before serving. Trying to decide whether to make dumplings from fresh liver, or chopped, or Schaller&Weber liverwurst. Perhaps sauteed diced liver, as is, would be good in lentil soup. Liver is certainly economical.....

                                    1. http://www.chow.com/recipes/11248
                                      This is one of the most inexpensive, flavorful soups ever. You can cut the amount of chiles to your tastes. But I'm swear it's easy easy and delcious. I serve it with an asiago olive bread, but really any bread will do.

                                      The other is my pink bean soup served with cornbread. Couldn't be cheaper. I hope you like! http://www.flickr.com/photos/7220939@...

                                      if you want to do another one that is really delcious try the tortilla soup
                                      All are about the cheapest and so satisfying.

                                      1. Some of my favorite combos to make and serve:
                                        Navy Bean Soup with Sourdough
                                        Clam Chowder with Sourdough
                                        Sweet n Sour with Rye
                                        Pumpkin Curry soup with Tibetan Flatbread
                                        Celery Potato Soup and Tomato Bread
                                        Minestrone with Corn Bread
                                        Ham and Potato Soup with popovers
                                        French Onion Soup with Dense Wheat Bread
                                        Chicken Noodle Soup with Bagel Chips

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: Emme

                                          emme, can you tell me more about your tomato bread please? I love tomatoes, and what a wonderful way to incorporate them into a meal. Bet its yummy!
                                          and another question since looks like your quite good at bread making. Can you or have you ever added other foods like a veggie or herb or cheese even, to your popovers?

                                          1. re: chef chicklet

                                            Tomato-Quinoa Bread
                                            Excerpted from Vegetable Harvest by Patricia Wells

                                            Equipment: A heavy-duty electric mixer fitted with a dough hook; a pastry scraper; a nonstick 1-quart rectangular bread pan; a razor blade or a sharp knife; an instant-read thermometer

                                            1 teaspoon active dry yeast
                                            1 teaspoon sugar
                                            1/3 cup lukewarm water
                                            1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
                                            2 teaspoons fine sea salt
                                            1 cup seasoned vegetable juice – such as V8
                                            1/2 cup quinoa
                                            About 3 3/4 (1 pound) bread flour

                                            1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the yeast, sugar, and lukewarm water and mix to blend. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Stir in the oil, salt, juice, and quinoa.
                                            2. Add the flour a bit at a time, mixing at medium-low speed until most of the flour has been absorbed and the dough forms a ball. Continue to mix at medium-low speed until soft and satiny but still firm, 4-5 minutes, adding flour to keep the dough from sticking.
                                            3. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator. Let the dough rise in the refrigerator until doubled or tripled in bulk, 8 to 12 hours. (The dough can be kept for two days in the refrigerator. Simply punch it down as it doubles or triples.)
                                            4. At least 40 minutes before baking the bread, preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
                                            5. Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Punch down the down and form it into a ball again. Cover the bowl securely with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
                                            6. Punch down the dough again. Form the dough into a tight rectangle. Place the dough in a nonstick 1-quart rectangular bread pan. Cover with a clean cloth and let rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
                                            7. With a razor blade or sharp knife, slash the top of the dough several times so it can expand regularly during baking. Place the oven rack in the center of the oven. Place the bread pan in the center of the rack. Bake until the crust is firm and golden brown and the bread sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom, about 45 minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer plunged into the center of the bread reads 200 degrees F. Remove the pan from the oven. Turn the loaf out and place it on a rack to cool. Do not slice the bread for at least 1 hour, for it will continue to bake as it cools. The bread can be stored for up to three days, tightly wrapped in plastic. Serve in very thin slices.
                                            *179 calories per slice, 2 g fat, 6 grams protein, 34 g carbohydrates

                                            RE POPOVERS: you can definitely add mix-ins to popovers. herbs are great, cheese, veggies, etc. love gruyere and mushrooms, cheddar and broccoli, parm basil and oregano, etc.

                                        2. chili isn't really soup, but it's the same principle, easy to prepare and serve, filly and yummy! Maybe a bowl of that with cheese and chopped onions and a side of cornbread once it gets cooler?

                                          I just made a huge pot of corn chowder this afternoon, it's filling,inexpensive, and oh so good.
                                          saute onions and shallots in butter, toss in some finely chopped potatoes, and some corn, after the veggies have softened, sprinkle flour over it and cook 3-4 minutes, but don't brown. Salt, Pepper and seasoning. (I like Old Bay for this, but you can really toss in what ever you like, cumin and chili for instance if you want a little Mexican kick Add chicken broth and cook into the veggies are done. Puree and then add more chicken broth, more corn and large chunks of potatoes and carrots. Cook until veggies are tender, add milk and a little cream. It's one of those recipes that you can play with and there is no real right or wrong way to fix it. The only things I think are completely necessary are the small potatoes and first addition of corn which give it some thickness and heft when you puree.