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1 pot/pan Lunch/Dinner for 20 custodians

I'm a teacher and every year I like to do a christmas meal for the 20 or so custodians who work at my school in 2 shifts (10 in the afternoon, 10 afterschool). For 6 years now, I've made a giant pot of chili, but i'm bored and want to try something new and I'm looking for suggestions.

Here are the parameters:

1. The ages range from 22-65, mostly men...they are not salad-y kinds of men.
2. They're not the most experimental foodies and won't go for something truly "out there"
3. It's north jersey, and many of them have Italian moms, wives, and grandma's who can make a better italian classic than I can.
4. Dish can stay hot in a crock pot, though will have to be re-heated in the microwave if not crock-worthy
5. I'm on a budget and would like to spend less than $40 for the meal

Any suggestions/recipes are welcome

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  1. I did a coed baby shower at the office a few years ago and served pulled pork sandwiches. I purchased the meat and sauce from a local bbq joint, but If you have access to a Costco, they sell a tub of smoked pulled pork that's reasonably priced, you'll just need a bottle or two of sauce, buns and maybe some coleslaw or chips on the side.

    2 Replies
    1. re: gmm

      Love the pulled pork idea. I have made my own in my crockpot many times. And you can do it ahead of time then just warm up in the crockpot for serving. Along with a little home made slaw and you are good to go. Love that you are thinking of these unsung people.

      1. re: gmm

        One more vote for the pulled pork. I buy the "Pernil" cut and do it in the slow cooker...always a hit at any event I go to. I buy club rolls and slice them into thirds for a slider-sized sandwich. I usually buy premade coleslaw to serve alongside.

      2. How nice of you to do something special for these guys, who probably are taken for granted by many! How about a pot or two of hearty soup? I'm thinking New England clam chowder for one, perhaps split pea with ham for the other. Purists will insist that the chowder should not have thickener, but your manly men will prefer a thickened soup. It's less drippy, too. Accompany them with oyster crackers plus assorted crackers and pretzels. IMO, Snyder's Honey Mustard and Onion Pretzel Nuggets are great with pea soup. Maybe some assorted sliced cheeses too.

        1. King Ranch casserole, maybe with some extra jalapenos on the side.

          1. Jambalaya........


            1. Hearty lasagna can be made in a crockpot and garlic bread foiled up. Plate of Italian cookies; see the local bakery guy about your good intentions on the bread & cookies-they might assist!
              And, kudos to you for such a thoughtful, consistent act of holiday spirit!

              1 Reply
              1. re: HillJ

                here's the most recent crockpot lasagna recipe I've seen demonstrated.

              2. You could do Swedish meatballs in the crockpot, or shredded beef w/ onions and garlic and herbs, to be served as quasi-french dips.

                1. Very nice of you! But I wonder if all 20 of them are looking forward to that chili..

                  I'm also curious if there will be dessert..?

                  Waffles, with chicken & gravy? if you could figure how to do it -- motel breakfasts use waffle makers, each guest makes his own fresh -- but maybe biscuits would be easier.

                  1. I live in an apartment so outdoor smoking is not an option, but googled around a bit and saw CooksIllustrated "Indoor pulled pork"...I'm a bit wierded out about it making use of liquid smoke (just what IS THAT STUFF?), but loving on the pulled pork sandwhich idea.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: sixelagogo

                      There is a wonderful Alton Brown episode where he makes home made liquid smoke. Much to my amazement, it is a real food product. Basically, he did some smoking in his grill, and then had a bowl over the grill and as the smoke hit the cooler bowl it condensed into a liquid. I have no recollection of how he captured the drips of smoke infused water, but you get the idea.

                      So it is possible that you could find a liquid smoke that is exactly that. I would probably opt for smoked paprika instead.

                      1. re: sixelagogo

                        It definitely was a hit with the men in the group. Here's the Costco pork I mentioned: http://addictedtocostco.com/2010/01/0...
                        Good stuff.

                      2. I like the idea of soup/stew because you can feed alot. I suggest chicken & dumplings or chicken & pastry. My neighbor brings it to church for the monthly dinner and if she showed up without it, there would be mutiny (she's making it tomorrow & I can't wait) She brings a huge huge pot & there are hardly any leftovers. Easy to make if you buy pastry strips from the freezer section and buy leg/thigh quarters in large bags to make it cost effective.

                        Other thoughts are great northern bean cooked with some type of smoked meat (turkey, pork, etc) or vegetarian veggie/veggie beef. If you're a baker, why not consider some type of rolls or crackers (cheaper than buying) or flatbread (can be made with a pizza dough recipe) with maybe some pimento cheese to go with. Where I live, some of the schools sell rolls during the holidays so perhaps they do at your school as well and if so, you can probably get them for next to nothing. Hams are on sale at this time of the year; you could bake one up, thinly slice & serve with the rolls and make a couple of salads to accompany (potato, pasta, etc) You could also make ham salad out the ham and serve with other side salads & some type of bread.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: Cherylptw

                          i second chicken and dumplins....always a hit!

                          1. re: LaLa

                            The first thing I thought of, along the same line, was chicken and biscuits. Just make a stew that's like the filling for a chicken pot pie- fill with lots of beautiful vegetables. Have a basket of homemade biscuits on the side.

                            1. re: 4Snisl

                              I think this is great and really different from Chili!

                        2. This chalupa dinner bowl cooks in the crockpot, is inexpensive and makes a huge quantity. It's much better than you'd think, from the ingredients:


                          1. How about a giant pot of ham and beans? It's pretty simple, very satisfying, and crockpot-able. I'd serve cornbread with it.

                            1. what a kind and generous soul you are!

                              would a nice crusty macaroni and cheese be too simple? too pedestrian?

                              i was gonna suggest a stew or the like as well. or even a shepherd's pie.
                              honestly, i'm sure they're just utterly grateful for your generosity!