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May 22, 2009 11:10 AM

Dinner for twenty, $100 budget


I'm cooking dinner for a board meeting. Expecting fifteen to eighteen people.

We are a non-profit, and I'd like to impress them with cheap but delicious food. And show that home cooked meals are a more efficient alternative to catering these meetings.

We have our own kitchen. (Our office is a studio apartment.) We also have a wealth of volunteers only too happy to help with prep. All they need is direction.

As our kitchen is sparsely furnished, I was thinking a friend and I would do as much prep at my house the night before as we could. And possibly test the recipe then.

Cooking for one dairy-free, one-gluten-free, and several vegetarians. No beef. No shellfish.


I was thinking enchiladas/moussaka (w/o lamb?)/something casserole-ish and salad. Keep it pretty simple. Was leaning toward enchiladas because we could easily do one veg and one chicken. And use corn tortillas. But would need something for the dairy-free. That would not be too difficult.

Greek, Viet, Indian, Italian are other possibilities...

I'm open to any cuisine. Would prefer dishes that can be prepared ahead of time.

And would love input on salads, sides.


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  1. My gut instinct was to tell you to make your own pasta, but that will be a major gluten issue. Is the gluten-free person also one of the vegetarians? because if not you could do something like having pasta with the sauce in one bowl and then chicken done in a complementary way on another platter so that the people who can eat both could combine them for a meal and the people who don't eat meat/can't eat gluten could have just the pasta/chicken but it would still be a complete-enough meal for them if you served it along with a salad/vegetable side that would work for everyone.

    You could also do a taco bar, which would also allow people to put their own toppings on according to their dietary needs. Have corn tortillas, a chopped chicken filling, a veggie filling (TVP? Mushrooms? Tofu? Beans?), chopped lettuce, tomato, avocado or homemade guacamole, cheese for those who eat it, and maybe a few homemade delicious relishes that could show off your talents - I LOVE thinly sliced red onions cured overnight in lime juice and tossed with some chopped up cilantro - cheap, easy, and surprisingly tasty (and I HATE raw onions, but the lime juice takes out that disgusting oniony bite). This could easily fit in your budget.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Cebca

      I like the pasta idea. My friend who is helping me out just made fresh egg pasta last week. So he's got that down. He can teach me. I was originally thinking beet raviolis would be great to make because we have a lovely family recipe. But probably WAY too much effort required.

      DIY tacos sounds great too.

      I was already considering Viet salad rolls (not much different from Thai, I assume). And maybe a noodle dish would work well. Pad thai is not my favorite--- I'd want to do something different. A yellow curry sauce or something. Or my Cambodian girlfriend just made a fantastic Cambodian noodle dish the other night. With sea bass though.

      1. re: sophie.

        I definitely think you could do something great at that price. The one thing I would encourage, if you want everybody to get on board with not catering, is trying to keep prep and clean up to a minimum. Otherwise, it's so much work!!!

        I have made this burrito recipe many times:

        It is delicious, and I've added in other vegetables, peppers, etc. and made double batches... I served it when some health-conscious acquaintances came by a while ago, with tortillas on the side. You could serve it with flour and corn tortillas, and rice, with some cheese, sour cream, sliced avocado, and jarred/homemade salsa on the side. A nice green salad on the side, plus a potato salad like this one:

        And, for something sweet, you could serve some fresh fruit with whipped cream/sorbet on the side.

    2. Moussaka has lots of dairy (cheese and bechamel). I'd go with a vegan pad thai -- lots of veggies, rice noodles -- everyone could eat it. Maybe start with thai lettuce wraps. Serve rice on the side to bulk it up for the big eaters.

      1 Reply
      1. re: pikawicca

        taco bar & the Vietnamese spread with pad thai & lettuce wraps are both great ideas.

        random thoughts:
        - quinoa salad would be a better alternative to pasta.
        - you could make a couple of different fritattas with various veggies and slice them into wedges for easy serving - eggs are cheap, it's a hearty, filling,high-protein dish, and it can be served at room temperature.
        - you could even do chocolate-dipped fruit for dessert - just use dark (and maybe even some white) chocolate so the dairy-free person can enjoy it as well.
        - sorbet or granita would also work for dessert.

        these recent threads didn't have the same dietary restrictions, but they still might be very helpful:

      2. What about red beans/rice and a creole soaked salad? You could use turkey smoked sausage in place of andouille served on the side for those that wanted it?

        1. Like Cebca, I'd probably do a taco bar: From left to right I'd set out plates; corn tortillas; shredded chicken with sliced black olives, cumin, salt, and pepper; meatless refried beans (this will be the major dish to cook ahead of time); diced tomato, diced red onion; shredded cheese; and two home-made hot sauces - one HOT and the other mild. Watermelon or cantelope for dessert.

          Were it not for the vegetarians and the no beef rule, I'd make laab.

          1. How come every non profit has an abundance of dairy-free, one-gluten-free, and several vegetarians? The glutten free person has no choice in the matter, I get that. but the vegi and dairy free folks give me a break, and dinner for 20 at $5 per head, you have your work cut out for you. You could do a make your own taco or enchelada bar. You could serve soyriso as their option, fir the others you could purchase pollo asada from costco their pollo is all natural with no additives. You could put out all of the sides for folks ie avocado, lettuce tomato, salsa and cheese.

            You could also do a large bowl of mixed greens and people could make their own salads. bowls of beans, grilled chicken, cheese, various vegis, tomatos etc.

            good luck!

            3 Replies
            1. re: normalheightsfoodie

              Psst! You're not supposed to ask, "Howcome every non profit [h]as an abundance of dairy-free, one-gluten-free, and several vegetarians?"

              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                Thanks from us 'hounds toiling in the non profit sector, Sam!

              2. re: normalheightsfoodie

                Because the type of person who would work non-profit is the same who be more to more ethical food choices?