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Dairy-free main dishes for a group of about 12

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I've got an interesting project: a local monastery's cook is going on vacation for 3 weeks and my husband and I volunteered to help make some meals. I had a list of 9 favorite dishes that I thought they'd like, but then found out that 2 of the monks have dairy/lactose issues--and most all of my dishes involved cheese in some way. They tell me it would be okay to make the dishes but make a portion without the milk/cheese, but I'd like to see if I can just come up some dishes that could work for everyone.

The dishes they're looking forward to from my list are meatloaf, turkey/black bean chili with hotdogs, and some kind of chicken curry (I don't really have a recipe but told them I'd come up with something). They were okay with 3-cheese ziti with sausage--as long as I made a portion without any cheese.

The plan is that I/we would make things earlier in the day for them to heat up later--or prepare meals in a couple of crock pots to cook all day. Got any suggestions? (One of the monks is going to make Sloppy Joes, so that's already spoken for.) They weren't so interested in meatless meals because they eat some sort of penitential canned soup on Fridays. :-P

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  1. Franks and beans.
    Pot roast.
    Boiled dinner.
    Salade Nicoise.
    Bouillabaise/Cioppino

    5 Replies
    1. re: greygarious

      I thought about pot roast but then thought about it being the dog days of summer and dismissed the thought. But I'll bet they'd love that ATK pot roast recipe that I learned about from you guys (Chowhounders).

      1. re: Thanks4Food

        Pot roast with a potato salad and/or coleslaw along side would make for a yummy summer supper. And leftovers could be turned into tacos.

        1. re: Thanks4Food

          It would be helpful to know a bit about the monks' duties. If the monastery produces and sells products of some sort, like
          those that grow crops, make jams and breads, etc., a monk might go through a lot of calories in a day, and hearty entrees would be in order. If there's little or no physical labor,
          lighter summer meals are appropriate.

          1. re: greygarious

            The one who has his own vegetable garden would probably be satisfied with a kale smoothie. :-P I'm sure they're all very busy throughout the day with various duties at home and in the community, but not terribly strenuous. However, I can't imagine any of these guys saying, "I think all I'd like is a salad."

            One thing I do know: one of the monks told me once that their cook doesn't think sandwiches of any sort should be served for dinner--and that includes hotdogs, hamburgers, etc. So I think they take advantage of his being away to have things like that. I know they're looking forward to chili dogs--and I'm going to suggest the sausage and peppers idea too.

            1. re: Thanks4Food

              Okay then, maybe a soup and sandwich dinner. You could make croque monsieurs or grilled cheeses earlier in the day, for them to recrisp on a sheet pan in the oven.

      2. Sausage and Peppers

        3 Replies
        1. re: juliejulez

          Since I can't eat bell peppers, it never would have crossed my mind. But they might just like that--and it sure sounds easy.

          1. re: Thanks4Food

            Yup, very easy and tasty, serve w/ some hoagie/sub type rolls

            This one is done on the grill but the oven method would be pretty much the same, minus all the charcoal stuff of course: http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/20...

            1. re: juliejulez

              They do have a gas grill. This could be something I prepare for them early in the day and they grill for themselves later on.

        2. Sofrito Chicken Stew from skinnytaste.com is great... one of my husband's favorites. I made it recently for a gluten free/lactose intolerant friend who also doesn't eat meat. She loved it! (I used chicken stock instead of beer when I made it for her.)
          http://www.skinnytaste.com/2008/09/so...

          1 Reply
          1. re: onrushpam

            This looks good! And since beer is a treat they don't get very often, just the thought that there's beer in it would probably appeal to them.

          2. You could make some sort of tomato based meatballs served over a nice rice. The Brass Sisters have a very nice recipe for a lemon chicken on their website, and makes a substantial portion and is quite delicious.
            http://www.thebrasssisters.com/pages/...

            1. Moroccan chickpea stew. You can vary the vegetables on what you find, add chicken.

              http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/moroc...

              1 Reply
              1. re: chowser

                We make a similar recipe quite often and everyone loves it and it is filling and easy to make. We make ours with chicken and chickpeas.

              2. Corned beef and cabbage (can also add potatoes) is easy to do in a crock pot.
                Choucroute garni?
                Ratatouille with merguez or other sausages on the side?
                Good luck!

                1. Neat challenge. Hope you and they both enjoy.

                  White chicken chili, can assemble parts and finish in the slowcooker (sour cream and cheddashreds on the side; make the chili creamy by mashing some of the beans before adding). Cornbread or tortillas on side.

                  Chicken apricot tagine in slowcooker. Rice or couscous on side.

                  I like juliejulez' sausage and peppers -- I'd use red bells and add lots of onions and garlic and sink it all into a nice tomato sauce and simmer all day in slow cooker. Big rolls for serving. Broccoli, steamed, and/or green beans on side.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: DuchessNukem

                    Chef John from Foodwishes.com has an amazing recipe for white chicken chili.

                  2. Chicken marbella or a version of it. It is a great reheat dish.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Berheenia

                      Or chicken Marengo...

                    2. If pot roast is out, I imagine corned beef and ropa vieja wouldn't be summery enough either so how about:
                      Pulled pork
                      Sweet and sour meatballs
                      Gumbo
                      Jambalaya

                      1. Grill a ham or turkey and lighten it up with summery sides like fruit salad, cole slaw, tomato and cucumber salad.
                        Grilled chicken legs and thighs
                        Stuffed peppers
                        Meatball subs
                        Enchiladas, fajitas, burritos
                        Lo mein

                        1. I want to thank you all for all these great suggestions! I've got a good list of dishes to offer them now--and whatever they don't go for, I'm going to try at home for my husband. You made me realize I have to expand my horizons.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: Thanks4Food

                            Please do report back when it's all done. This is like our own little "Monastery Master Chef." :)

                            1. re: DuchessNukem

                              I will. Yesterday I gave them a long list of dishes I could make, including many of the suggestions above. I felt so...so...sophisticated offering choucroute garni, cassoulet, and ratouille among other things.

                              But now I have to admit to being pretty nervous about the execution: I don't think much about what I make at home--if I doesn't come out great, my husband will eat it anyway. But these guys are supposed to be able to offer up suffering...

                              Just as an aside, I must say I love your name, DuchessNukem. :-)

                              1. re: Thanks4Food

                                They'll enjoy the change; it would be great to have to have their feedback somehow if possible (comment cards? maybe too itty-fitty). Just cook with your heart.

                                (And thanks, I enjoy the title also, but the Duchess duties sometimes get tiresome -- cleaning the castle, bleaching the Duke's flattop, burying dead aliens and Nazis.. I'm sure you understand.)

                          2. Just FYI: I heard back and what they chose for me to prepare on seven days spread over the 3 weeks are the following:

                            Turkey/black bean chili and hotdogs
                            Chicken curry
                            Cassoulet
                            Chicken Tortilla Soup
                            Meatloaf
                            Chicken, mushroom, and broccoli rotini
                            Tuna and rice casserole

                            I was kind of surprised at some of their choices (like chicken tortilla soup as the main dish--feel like I ought to make something to go with it).

                            I've made everything multiple times except for cassoulet. I'd be happy for any recipe recommendations for cassoulet that are simple and not using terribly expensive ingredients (since I think I'm paying for all this, but am not positive).

                            The tuna/rice casserole is nothing special: if you've got any good versions that I could make lactose free, I'd be interested.

                            Also, since I've been cooking for 2 for 20 years, I'm not sure how to figure how much to prepare. Any idea how many 1-pound boxes of rotini to use to feed 12 men?

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: Thanks4Food

                              For pasta, I would figure 4 oz per monk. Probably generous but you don't want them going hungry. This cassoulet recipe looks good and has good reviews but I would get rid of most of the bacon grease (as many reviewers point out) and would not for a second bother cutting the thighs in half. http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/me... This is a fun project, keep us posted!

                              1. re: GretchenS

                                For the cassoulet: I have a crockpot recipe that calls for chicken thighs, lamb shoulder, and kielbasa. I probably wouldn't add the lamb shoulder, but is kielbasa/sausage a traditional addition?

                                1. re: Thanks4Food

                                  I think traditionally it is a garlic sausage so kielbasa sounds perfect. Yum, kielbasa... :)

                                  1. re: GretchenS

                                    Thanks! I'm sure my husband's going to like this: I'll probably make a huge batch and bring some home for us--although I haven't decided whether to cook there or here at home and haul it over there. It would certainly be interesting to see what it's like cooking in a monastery kitchen (and having their their big labrador underfoot) but then I know where everything is here at home.

                                    1. re: Thanks4Food

                                      http://www.saveur.com/article/Recipes...

                                      this is a pretty traditional recipe for cassoulet, except the navy beans are subbing for the tarbais.

                                      as for the pasta question, that depends on how much chicken you give them. figure at least 5-6 oz. protein, and i'd say the 4oz of pasta offered above is pretty conservative if this is the only component of dinner. i'm a small female and could easily hoover that much pasta. (back when i still ate it. lol.) besides, pasta is so cheap, no need to skimp.

                                      good luck!

                            2. Potato and corn chowder made using corn stock and coconut milk.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: escondido123

                                Thanks for the suggestion, but if you'll see my last post, they've already picked what they'd like me to make.

                              2. Souvlaki with salad and lemon roast potatoes.