Friday, July 30, 2010

How to Feed a Crowd

Millie writes:

Today in Bachelor Camp we will be having a lesson in Investment Cooking. That’s where you cook yourself limp for several hours and end up with enough food to last you for a week or so. My planned menu – which I adapted from a magazine article a couple of decades ago – is very ground-beef intensive and features foods most kids will eat. It even has a few sneaky vegetables tucked in there and if you shred instead of chop the kid doesn’t even have to know it’s eating zucchini!

The shopping list and recipes are included below.

Yesterday we did Bachelor Camp: the Marketing Edition in order to get ready for today’s cooking frenzy. Included in that lesson was how to choose produce, how to choose meat (and what to make from the different cuts) and comparison shopping (our kids being OUR kids, they all already do that, but a refresher never hurts). We doubled the recipes (since we’re cooking for 6 – 8, not 3 – 4) and our grocery bill for 5 dinners was around $120. It could have been lower (for example, we could have cooked our own dried beans and made our own chicken stock instead of buying canned) but we were trying to use things that bachelors would be likely to have on hand.

Shopping List:

Grocery Items
Vegetable oil
Red-wine vinegar
2 cups bread crumbs
1 2-ounce box onion soup mix
16 oz small pasta (for soup)
Spaghetti noodles

Canned foods
4 28-oz cans crushed tomatoes in puree
2 19-oz cans kidney beans
1 15-oz can tomato sauce
8 cups chicken broth
24 ounces brown gravy (or mix to make)
5 ounces sliced olives

Freezer Items
1 16-oz bag frozen chopped spinach

Chili Powder

8 ½ pounds ground beef

10 oz. shredded Cheddar
2 eggs
10 8-inch tortillas
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 pounds onions
2 pounds carrots
2 pounds zucchini or other squash
1 bulb fresh garlic (about ¼ cup chopped)

Directions for Aromatic Vegetables:

Chop onions, carrots and zucchini. Saute over medium heat in ¼ cup oil until almost tender (about 15 minutes). Transfer to a large bowl.

Directions for Basic Meat Sauce:

Put 4 teaspoons minced garlic and 3 pounds of ground beef into a deep pot; cook and stir over medium heat until the meat is broken up and thoroughly brown. Stir in 6 cups of the Aromatic Vegetables, the crushed tomatoes, the tomato sauce and 2 teaspoons salt. Simmer for 15 minutes. There will be 22 cups of meat sauce: separate into 7 for spaghetti, 8 for Picadillo Casserole, and 7 for chili.

Meal 1: Spaghetti

Heat up 7 cups of the Basic Meat Sauce. Serve over spaghetti noodles.

Meal 2: Zesty Chili

Drain the kidney beans and add to 7 cups Basic Meat Sauce. Add 2 TBSP chili powder (or more, to taste). Serve with sour cream, cheddar cheese and chopped onion.

Meal 3: Picadillo Casserole

Grease 2 pie pans (deep dish, if available). In a mixing bowl, combine 8 cups Basic Meat Sauce, ¼ cups sliced olives, 1 tbsp sugar, 2 tbsp red-wine vinegar, 2 tsp chili powder and 1 tsp cinnamon. Spread 2/3 cup sauce in the bottom of each pie pan and cover with a tortilla. Top the tortilla with 2/3 cup Basic Meat Sauce and ¼ cup shredded Cheddar cheese. Repeat until there are 4 tortilla layers in each pan, ending with cheese. Cover with foil and freeze, or bake at 375 for 30-35 minutes. Bake frozen casseroles 1 hour and 45 minutes at 350.

Meal 4: Salisbury Steaks with Vegetable Gravy

Steaks: Preheat oven to 375. In a large bowl mix 4 pounds ground beef, 2 cups dried bread crumbs, 1 box (2 ounces) onion soup mix, 2 eggs, ½ cup water and 1 tbsp minced garlic. Blend with hands and pack into 2 meatloaf pans. Bake 20-25 minutes until firm and no longer pink in the center. Cool.

Gravy: While the steaks are cooking, mix 2 cups of the Aromatic Vegetables, 3 cups brown gravy and 2 cups water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Cool.

Wrap the uncut steaks and put in fridge or freezer; put the gravy in containers and fridge or freeze. To serve right away, reheat steaks 20-25 minutes at 350; cut into 8 portions and cover with heated gravy. Otherwise unwrap steaks, cover in foil and heat at 350 for 35-40 minutes; cover with heated gravy.

Meal 5: Chicken Soup with Tiny Meatballs

Bring 8 cups chicken broth and 8 cups water to boil in a large pot. Add the pasta and cook for 5 minutes. Add the spinach and simmer 5 more minutes. In a large bowl, mix the last 1 ½ cups of ground beef with ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese and 1 tsp minced garlic. Form it into small meatballs (about a teaspoon of meat per meatball) and drop them GENTLY into the soup. Simmer 5 to 7 minutes until the insides of the meatballs are no longer pink. Stir in the rest of the Aromatic Vegetables. Cool soup and refrigerate, or cover tightly and freeze; reheat to serve.


  1. Siva! Where were you 25 years ago? This sounds so good, and if I made this when John went out of town, I'd have little or no cooking to do, just reheating things.

  2. Alert reader Mychal suggests the following substitutions to make these dishes diabetic-friendly:

    Splenda for sugar
    Balsamic or POM-infused vinegar for red-wine vinegar
    Panko (crustless) crumbs for bread crumbs
    Tofu Shirataki noodles for spaghetti and pasta
    Low-carb versions of canned foods for regular
    Higher than 93% lean ground beef to provide more fat content
    Corn or low-carb flax tortillas for flour tortillas

    Thanks, Mychal!


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