Help Needed Volunteer Dinner Ideas

I am looking to volunteer cooking dinner for a shelter for families victim of domestic violence. Because of COVID all families are currently displaced and living in a hotel. I am looking for ideas on menus that are kid friendly but also a bit of a treat... so nothing too basic. Bonus if it’s something else than pasta as I realize that is the default for most volunteers. There are 15 different families with a total of 60 people. I need to pack everything individually for each family and need to travel almost an hour to deliver so the food must reheat well. I could also use some help with quantities for such a large group as I’ve never cooked for so many people before. TIA!



Noriocooks September 24, 2020
That’s so nice of you to volunteer to make food. I think you’re on the right track, asking about non-pasta dishes. If you can, maybe find out about the ethnicities of the families you are cooking for. There may be basic, culturally appropriate family style dishes that would be easier to make in large portions that also travel well? Maybe something like shredded beef tacos or carnitas, rice, and beans and sides? Or like Indian food — chicken tikka masala, daal makahni, rice, and garlic naan? Or arepas, or pupusas? As a kid, I also remember loving the nights my family got buckets of fried chicken, corn, mashed potatoes, biscuits, etc. Those are dishes that are easier to make in large batches, carry well in trays, kid-friendly, and re-heat decently.
Nancy September 24, 2020
Tberges0627....had some second thoughts. If the idea of making 5 or so dishes for each of 15 families is too complicated and/or not fancy enough (you wanted something special)'s another approach.
Make for each family a main dish than is a composite, usually of a starch, protein, sauce and maybe vegetables as aromatics or as substantial ingredient.
Chicken pot pie (chicken, carrot, pea, sauce, pie crust)
Lasagna (meat &/or cheese, sauce, noodles)
Fish stew on rice (fish, some veg, rice)
Fish chowder (fish, cream, potato)
Shepherd's pie (beef or lamb topped with mashed potatoes)
Tortilla or tacos (beef, cheese, onions, sauce, corn or wheat tortillas)
Then include a side dish, a fruit dessert and a drink.
If worried about whether the families will like them, or have people unable to safely eat some of the ingredients, maybe survey them in advance, give a short list of main dish options, ask for any allergies, then plan your menus.
Nancy September 23, 2020
A few ideas:
The organization (whether patricular builing or overall org,) hosting these families probably has done this before and can give you menu ideas and/or quantity guides. Ask them and use the guidelines.
Pack dishes in restaurant take-out plastic containers so families can trade a part if they don't like or can't eat something (like trading part of your lunch at school).
Avoid using common allergies (peanut, egg, some seafood). And a few GF people are (though about 5% of population are jntolerant). Or, if using those foods, label the container clearly about what's inside.
Make about 15 sets of interchangeable dishes (one per family):
Main (beef, chicken, fish)
Starch (pasta - yes, some still want it; rice; mashed potatoes).
Green vegetable (broccoli, brussel sprout, chard)
Red/orange vegetable (carrot, beet, red peppers, sweet potato)
Fruit dessert (in season)
Cup of sauce for main (varied - curry, gravy, cheese, bbq)....again, so people can trade.
Drinks - hot and/or cold.
Good work you're doing!
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