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Family Dinners


qwertyy
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On my second night in my new group home, I made a spaghetti dinner for me and my housemates with a mess of tomatoes I found left over in the fridge. And boy, did that go over big because it seems no one else in the compound cooks.

So, in an effort to continue ingratiating myself to my new colleagues and social circle, I think I may try to whip up a family dinner once a week or so. But I need ideas! I've been cooking for one for years, so my collection of family recipes is LAME. I'll have anywhere between eight and 15 people staying with me, so I'm thinking large, one- or two-pot meals. I've only been to the grocery store once on a short trip and found that my food availability is weird: no pork ( :unsure: ), limited but pretty decent meat and produce (but minimize non-cookable or -peelable items, which I have to wash in bleach :lol: ), limitless exotic spices, lots of eastern European packaged goods (Macedonian tahini?), and minimal western European and American pre-packaged ingredients (that box of Corn Flakes was eight bucks!). I plan an extended trip back in the near future to assess and basically read labels and will update on strange stuff I find. But the basics are there. For next week, I'm thinking a Middle Eastern pita thingy--marinate and sautee up some chicken, serve with onions, feta, and peeled tomatoes and cukes.

You all are my recipe box now. I'm counting on you! (And so are my hungry new friends!)

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Chili, which can be stretched with beans and further enhanced with a starch--either rice or noodles

Chicken browned in oil and then baked with onions, garlic, lemon and olives

Chicken Marengo--with tomatoes, garlic and onions

Chicken cacciatore--with tomatoes, peppers, onion and garlic

All of above benefit from the liberal addition of fresh herbs, especially thyme, parsley, bay leaf, basil, rosemary

Chicken broth--which can then be used to make large pots of:

rice pilaf

risotto

minestrone soup

pasta e fagiole

chicken soup with miscellaneous vegetables and grains

Stews with any sort of red meat--beef, lamb or goat

add lots of aromatics, like garlic and onion, fresh herbs, root vegetables, tomatoes

wine or beer--if you can get it, broth or water, a little bit of vinegar

slow cooked at low temp on stove top or in an oven

Greens, like kale, collards, turnip or beet tops and/or the local equivalent

cooked with onion, garlic, smoked meat (optional), served with hot pepper and vinegar

serve with rice, beans cooked with cumin, onion and garlic

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Assuming that you've made the leap to Khartoum?

Best of luck; we hardly knew ye.

Wine available? Or no?

Why thank you. Please do get yourself out for a grappa tasting in the near future so I can be there in spirit!

Good question: Yes, wine is available, but our access to it is pretty limited (liquor locker is only open an hour a week!) so we've just been using it to, you know, drink.

All of these are great ideas; chili with noodles is sounding especially good, as Khartoum is having a cold snap (no joke). Anyone have a good chili recipe? Just to take the challenge up a notch, I can't get chili powder here, and I don't have a blender or mortar and pestle to grind dried chilis. Cumin, oregano, basil, and some others are available.

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Since you clearly have internet access, why not get chili recipes from Epicurious--that way, you'll have a chance to compare several recipes and choose one that will match the ingredients you have access to, or which sounds best to you.

Commercial chili powder usually consists of cumin, coriander, oregano, garlic powder and red chile of some sort (and maybe a little bit of allspice). If you can get whole dried chiles, you can use them without grinding them into a powder: Rinse off the dust on the outside. Take off the stem and shake out the seeds. Cover the chile(s) with boiling water and let soak for about twenty minutes. Chop the softened chiles and add to the pot. If the skin still seems really thick and leathery, open the softened chiles with a knife and scrape out the pulp inside, add to your pot and discard the skin. Remember, a good rule of thumb is--the smaller the chile, the hotter it is. So if all you can get is small dried red chiles, use them sparingly and make up for the loss of chile flavor with some sweet paprika.

If you can get paprika, there is another option. Paprika comes in two variations--hot and sweet. If you can get hot paprika, use some of that in your chili spice blend, mixed with sweet if you don't want your pot of chili to be too spicy. If you can get only sweet paprika, use that liberally and add bottled hot sauce to add heat.

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Since you clearly have internet access, why not get chili recipes from Epicurious--that way, you'll have a chance to compare several recipes and choose one that will match the ingredients you have access to, or which sounds best to you.

Commercial chili powder usually consists of cumin, coriander, oregano, garlic powder and red chile of some sort (and maybe a little bit of allspice). If you can get whole dried chiles, you can use them without grinding them into a powder: Rinse off the dust on the outside. Take off the stem and shake out the seeds. Cover the chile(s) with boiling water and let soak for about twenty minutes. Chop the softened chiles and add to the pot. If the skin still seems really thick and leathery, open the softened chiles with a knife and scrape out the pulp inside, add to your pot and discard the skin. Remember, a good rule of thumb is--the smaller the chile, the hotter it is. So if all you can get is small dried red chiles, use them sparingly and make up for the loss of chile flavor with some sweet paprika.

If you can get paprika, there is another option. Paprika comes in two variations--hot and sweet. If you can get hot paprika, use some of that in your chili spice blend, mixed with sweet if you don't want your pot of chili to be too spicy. If you can get only sweet paprika, use that liberally and add bottled hot sauce to add heat.

Sure, I have Internet access, and of course I can search it for ideas; I just would love some tried and true recipes, especially since I can't really test them, have had bad luck with Internet dishes in the past, and am serving the food to a bunch of people I don't really know.

Thanks for the tips on chiles--I may try this next weekend!

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Please don't laugh but I'd think the following would be hits when stationed overseas:

Taco Night if you can get the shells. If you can't get the shells you could have taco salad night.

Hamburger night. Seriously, I'd think that hamburgers might be a hit. Do you have a grill?

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An update:

Family dinners have turned out to be a smashing success. Not only have others started to take up the mantle on non-Saturday nights, but many nights of the week have turned into a "team cook" where everyone contributes an ingredient, a recipe, or just some elbow grease. Aside from sustenance, it's also managed to cultivate a great deal of comeraderie among my housemates/colleagues/friends. If you're ever in a situation where you're stuck in a group home for a long period with people you see ALL THE TIME over an extended period, this is a great way to inject a feeling of cooperative household bliss.

So far, dinners have included spaghetti and meatballs; chicken on pita with feta, tzatziki, tomatoes, and cucumbers; tacos--on pita, of course (it was strange to be able to find salsa and refried beans here; even stranger to pay upwards of $10 for them); and Philly cheese steaks (also on pita). The produce here has turned out to be excellent, and the meats are quite fine too, though we all concur that they should be cooked within a day of purchase. This weekend, I think I'll fix up a batch of Moroccan veggie tagine, which I, in my infinite wisdom, posted an abbreviated recipe for on this very site a few months ago. This kind of foresight comes in handy, you see, when your cookbooks are on a barge somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic.

We have discovered that strained, full-fat yogurt makes an excellent replacement for sour cream; lemon bars out of a box suck; and that it's no use resisting lentils--they're cheap, omnipresesent, and will eventually wheedle their way into your diet whether you like it or not. (Who's got good main-dish lentil recipes???)

A previous post had me craving lasagne, but alas, there's no ricotta here, and parm is exorbitantly expensive. I may find a way, but it could take a few months. Chicken cacciatore has raised a few eyebrows as well (in a good way!), so that's also definitely on the list. Thanks!

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A previous post had me craving lasagne, but alas, there's no ricotta here, and parm is exorbitantly expensive. I may find a way, but it could take a few months. Chicken cacciatore has raised a few eyebrows as well (in a good way!), so that's also definitely on the list. Thanks!
I cannot remember the circumstances or why I tried making ricotta, but I attempted it a few years ago and the results weren't bad.

This is an example of the technique:

http://italianfood.about.com/library/rec/blr0949.htm

I believe that the less processed the milk is the better, but I just used whole milk from the grocery store.

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Wow...talk about cooking under unfamiliar circumstances. I can imagine eventually developing a hankering for Kraft Dinner with tuna if I was homesick enough. You need someone to send you a CARE package with non-perishables from home like spices and sauces.

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Wow--the bechamel and homemade ricotta are excellent ideas--exactly the kind of outside the Safeway thinking I depend on DR for! I also have the homemade mozzarella from another thread checkmarked in my mind, but that will have to wait until the summer when I can get home to pick up rennet and citric acid.

Wow...talk about cooking under unfamiliar circumstances. I can imagine eventually developing a hankering for Kraft Dinner with tuna if I was homesick enough. You need someone to send you a CARE package with non-perishables from home like spices and sauces.

I have a wide array of sauces, mustards, and chutneys on their way in my shipment (which is also on a barge in the middle of the Atlantic). Care packages are a-coming as well, but get this: no liquids allowed. None. So that nixes all but shelf-stable dried goods and, like, The Economist (which is tough to cook with). :lol:

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I think one of things you can do is braise chicken quarters in a stock of grains of paradise, I'm not sure if they are called that in Africa (where it's native) or if that it's european name. It's sweet and like pepper. You can actually use beer or wine as your base. Add standard mirpoix and perhaps a type of heat like a chili. If you have some lime or citrus juice and no wine, you can swap them out for acidty purpose. Add some corn starch or potatoes and you can have a pretty quick curry like stew. It's about an hour to 90 min on heat kind of dish. You are trying to get the bird falling off the bone. A little rice to spoon it over and you should be home free. It's an idea.

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Wow--the bechamel and homemade ricotta are excellent ideas--exactly the kind of outside the Safeway thinking I depend on DR for! I also have the homemade mozzarella from another thread checkmarked in my mind, but that will have to wait until the summer when I can get home to pick up rennet and citric acid.

I have a wide array of sauces, mustards, and chutneys on their way in my shipment (which is also on a barge in the middle of the Atlantic). Care packages are a-coming as well, but get this: no liquids allowed. None. So that nixes all but shelf-stable dried goods and, like, The Economist (which is tough to cook with). :lol:

While most of the rennet you see is liquid, it also comes in pill form, under the name Junket. Make sure you don't get the dessert mix, just the tablets.

Citric acid comes as crystals. Also known as "sour salt." Used in many cuisines for various purposes, and also for canning.

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