Menu review, please?

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Joined May 10, 2018
I am a home cook who cooks for a lot of group events. I am in charge a luncheon for 50, all older folk, over age 65. I am making butternut squash lasagna that I will make in advance, bake, then freeze and reheat the day of. Its very rich with a cup of whipping cream poured over the top before baking.

I am planning an arugula salad with toasted walnuts and...either fresh apple or dried cranberries...simple dressing..

What else? I was thinking of a plate of sliced oranges with a sprinkle of coconut or mint at each of the 7 round tables?

Then I was thinking of chocolate dipped fruit, pears and apples and bananas...but now it seems I've got to much fruit. I don't really know what is needed along with the salad and lasagna. Bread seems overkill...or maybe not?

I could make a rich chocolate cookie for dessert, I suppose..

Thanks again for your ideas,
Ann C.
 
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I don't really get the sliced oranges thing, but otherwise I don't see any problems.

I think for a lunch a salad/lasagna with a dessert sounds like plenty. If it were dinner I'd think maybe a first course or something would be appropriate but not for lunch.

I might try and find a way to bake it fresh for the event would be my only thing. A platter of cookies for each table would be a great dessert. Everyone loves cookies.
 
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Joined Mar 1, 2017
The first thing that jumps to mind are dietary restrictions in folks of that age. Right off the bat, the whipping cream, walnuts, fruit all send up some potential red flags depending on the nature of the event.

If this a luncheon for an assisted living community, nursing home etc, see if there's any dietary restrictions you should be aware of.

If its a paid outing, as in the seniors buy tickets or its part of another service etc, then, use your best judgement. If it were me, I would stay away from things like heavy dairy, nuts and sugars, especially fruit.

Good luck. :)
 
42
8
Joined May 10, 2018
The first thing that jumps to mind are dietary restrictions in folks of that age. Right off the bat, the whipping cream, walnuts, fruit all send up some potential red flags depending on the nature of the event.

If this a luncheon for an assisted living community, nursing home etc, see if there's any dietary restrictions you should be aware of.

If its a paid outing, as in the seniors buy tickets or its part of another service etc, then, use your best judgement. If it were me, I would stay away from things like heavy dairy, nuts and sugars, especially fruit.

Good luck. :)

What would you serve? I'm open to all ideas! I was told not to worry about allergies and etc...but given my own family is full of allergies I usually make sure there is food that everyone can eat. The salad can have the nuts and apples as toppings to be added.
Thanks for taking the time to write.
 
42
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Joined May 10, 2018
I don't really get the sliced oranges thing, but otherwise I don't see any problems.

I think for a lunch a salad/lasagna with a dessert sounds like plenty. If it were dinner I'd think maybe a first course or something would be appropriate but not for lunch.

I might try and find a way to bake it fresh for the event would be my only thing. A platter of cookies for each table would be a great dessert. Everyone loves cookies.

I will freeze a batch and reheat before hand to check for quality. If you think lasagna and salad is enough along with cookies, coffee, etc. Then I won't fuss with more.
Thanks so much for the feedback.
 
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What would you serve? I'm open to all ideas! I was told not to worry about allergies and etc...but given my own family is full of allergies I usually make sure there is food that everyone can eat. The salad can have the nuts and apples as toppings to be added.
Thanks for taking the time to write.
What sort of event is it?
 
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Joined Nov 2, 2016
What would you serve? I'm open to all ideas! I was told not to worry about allergies and etc...but given my own family is full of allergies I usually make sure there is food that everyone can eat. The salad can have the nuts and apples as toppings to be added.
Thanks for taking the time to write.


I used to work the kitchen at a Sunrise Assisted Living facility in VA about 1000 years ago. I went back and looked at some of the things they offered, and amazingly, some still offer the same types of entree's. I recall the Roasted Chicken / Chicken Pesto went over very well. Granted, you should take into account dietary needs of the specific group you're working with, but here's some of the items typical for Sunrise:

Sun-dried Tomato Pesto Chicken, Beef Skewers, Spiced Lamb on Naan Bread, Linguine Pescatore, Shredded BBQ Pork, Chicken Bruschetta with Asparagus, Roasted Chicken in Filo,
 
42
8
Joined May 10, 2018
I used to work the kitchen at a Sunrise Assisted Living facility in VA about 1000 years ago. I went back and looked at some of the things they offered, and amazingly, some still offer the same types of entree's. I recall the Roasted Chicken / Chicken Pesto went over very well. Granted, you should take into account dietary needs of the specific group you're working with, but here's some of the items typical for Sunrise:

Sun-dried Tomato Pesto Chicken, Beef Skewers, Spiced Lamb on Naan Bread, Linguine Pescatore, Shredded BBQ Pork, Chicken Bruschetta with Asparagus, Roasted Chicken in Filo,
Those are great ideas. Thanks for suggesting. Surprised to see an assisted living facility with spiced lamb on naan!
 

pete

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Where are you cooking all of this food? Even before I looked at the menu, the thing that popped with me is the fact that you are a "home" cook and preparing food for large groups of people. Unless you are preparing food in a licensed kitchen, and meeting all the requirements of a commercial establishment, what you are doing is illegal and as such, if you ever make anyone sick you have no protection at all. With a large group of elderly people you increase that risk significantly. Even if you don't make anyone sick, but the health department catches wind of what you are doing, you could be facing hefty fines and penalties.
 
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Joined May 10, 2018
Hmmm...I thought about this actually. I have my food handler's permit but not sure if that is adequate. It is a church event and it happens several times a year, this is my turn to be in charge of the food. Maybe this should be my last time! I don't want to be doing things that might be over my skill level. Actually when you think about it, all the potlucks that churches have are a food handler's nightmare. Do you think a food handler's permit and a ton of experience in the kitchen and a very careful approach to food safety is enough?
 
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Hmmm...I thought about this actually. I have my food handler's permit but not sure if that is adequate. It is a church event and it happens several times a year, this is my turn to be in charge of the food. Maybe this should be my last time! I don't want to be doing things that might be over my skill level. Actually when you think about it, all the potlucks that churches have are a food handler's nightmare. Do you think a food handler's permit and a ton of experience in the kitchen and a very careful approach to food safety is enough?
No.

pete pete is right. Where is the food being prepared? In a home kitchen? If so, this is is generally prohibited in most states. However, churches are sometimes exempt from certain laws. If I were you, I would check with your local health department and find out if what you are doing and how you are doing it is permissible.

If the food is being prepared in properly licensed kitchen then, that eliminates some of the concerns. However, you need to check and make sure the permits are current. Also, you need to check if anyone assisting you needs a safe food handler's card as well or if they can operate under your card as long as you are present.

Insurance is another issue. If the food is being prepared in facility owned by the church, then, generally speaking, the church would be responsible for providing insurance for the event. You may want to check with your church and make sure they have proper and current insurance that specifically covers events like this.

If the food is being prepared in your home kitchen, I would strongly caution you against this. If someone gets sick or has a reaction to your food, chances are good that your homeowner's insurance will not cover you. This is because preparing meals for public consumption in a home kitchen is generally not permissible in most states. Insurance companies are prohibited from indemnifying illegal acts. If you are using a home kitchen to prepare these meals, you really need to check with your local health department to make sure what you are doing is permissible. Like Pete said, even if nothing bad happens, you could face some nasty legal entanglements and hefty fines in the event the local health department finds out what's going on.

I don't mean to be a prophet of doom here. But, there is a lot more to doing something like this than coming up with a menu.

Good luck. :)
 
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Thanks, all good things to worry about. It is a licensed kitchen, and it will be prepared there. I've never poisoned anyone so far but you never know when a mistake will be made!
 

pete

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it used to be that health inspectors pretty much ignored churches, and to some extent they still do, but there has been a crack down on what churches are doing, especially if they are serving to the public, for money. On one hand, you hate to go talk with the health inspector as it alerts them to what you are doing and it makes it more difficult to "fly under the radar." On the other hand, if your church is doing it illegally, and does get caught (slim chance but still a chance) it could mean trouble for the church. And remember, church populations are getting older and older. What might cause a little discomfort to you or me, could mean a serious problem for someone elderly, with a compromised immune system. Being a licensed, inspected facility doesn't stop bad things from happening, but if they do happen you want to make sure that it isn't compounded by operating illegally.
 
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Joined Mar 1, 2017
it used to be that health inspectors pretty much ignored churches, and to some extent they still do, but there has been a crack down on what churches are doing, especially if they are serving to the public, for money. On one hand, you hate to go talk with the health inspector as it alerts them to what you are doing and it makes it more difficult to "fly under the radar." On the other hand, if your church is doing it illegally, and does get caught (slim chance but still a chance) it could mean trouble for the church. And remember, church populations are getting older and older. What might cause a little discomfort to you or me, could mean a serious problem for someone elderly, with a compromised immune system. Being a licensed, inspected facility doesn't stop bad things from happening, but if they do happen you want to make sure that it isn't compounded by operating illegally.
Or compounded by not being properly insured. :)
 
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Thanks, all good things to worry about. It is a licensed kitchen, and it will be prepared there. I've never poisoned anyone so far but you never know when a mistake will be made!
Indeed. Being in command of a commercial kitchen is always an exercise in controlled chaos. The only factor that you have any real measure control over is yourself. Employees love to cut corners like not washing their hands when they're supposed to or cross contaminating prep surfaces or using the notorious "5 second rule" and so on.

So, please don't take our constructive criticism as an insult or as an attempt to impugn your integrity. That is not the intent. We know what its like to manage a kitchen staff and keep them doing the right things even when no one is watching. Its this point of experience from which our advice flows. :)

As for menu suggestions, there are some very good ones in this thread. I like your idea for an Arugula salad with toasted walnuts. I would go with the apple slices and a light balsamic vinaigrette.

Sliced oranges on each table with perhaps a light cottage cheese lightly seasoned with nutmeg and garnished with mint leaves would also be a nice touch.

Instead of fruit dipped in chocolate, how about seasoned and roasted Cauliflower florets or perhaps roasted Brussels sprouts? They're easy to make in bulk and are wonderful finger foods. You could accompany them with a nice mustard based dipping sauce or a balsamic type sauce.

The butternut squash lasagna sounds like a good choice.

Good luck. I am sure your event will be everything that you want it to be. :)
 
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Joined May 10, 2018
Thank you for worrying about my feelings. :) I am not insulted at all, I appreciate all feedback and I listen to what others have to say when they have more experience than I do. I love the ideas you offer, as well. The one thing I've never been able to figure out is how to do roast vegetables for a crowd when you are working with limited oven space. Also, I tend not to do too much that has to be done at the last moment because, like I said, I'm not a professional and the chances of burning something or not getting the timing right makes me anxious. :)
 
42
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Joined May 10, 2018
This is very interesting to read through these comments as pertains to churches. Our church does large meal events all the time. I've never heard any concerns raised about whether this is legal or safe (other than always having someone with a food handler's permit monitoring the cooking/serving). We had a dinner for 200 last fall, all prepared by various members of the church. Probably 2 potlucks a month. A spaghetti dinner for about 100 last month. Also, three or four of us take turns cooking meals for our homeless shelter 3 times a week and those meals are for 35 or so and are transported to the shelter after preparation, don't think there is even a food handler involved in that endeavor. I'm sure I am making all you professionals cringe but you are raising awareness and I will bring back and at least address the issue. I actually think all the other churches in our town do about the same.
 
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Joined Nov 2, 2016
Those are great ideas. Thanks for suggesting. Surprised to see an assisted living facility with spiced lamb on naan!

Well, considering Sunrise price point for care is upwards of several thousand dollars a month, Lamb isn't too much of a stretch. It's definitely an upscale retirement home.
 
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Joined Oct 31, 2012
Whether you talk to the HD or not, (and you should. Also ask about a basic food safety courses they offer as well as handouts you can bring back to the church kitchen.) the basics of food service sanitation are not complicated. I suspect most of the volunteers may already think they know them but for the sake of stating the obvious, here are some of the guidelines in no particular order.
1. Wash your hands frequently. Soap and water and vigorous scrubbing for twenty seconds.
2. When handling ready to eat foods, food handling gloves should be worn. Have S, M, L and XL sizes on hand to accommodate everyone. Ready to eat means nothing else will be done before it is eaten. So pastries, lettuce and salad veggies, cooked meats, rolls, etc. Cutting raw veg for soup is not "ready to eat". Making a salad or sandwich is ready to eat.
A couple of cutting gloves available will make the HD happy.
3. A sanitizer solution should be on hand with clean cloths to sanitize work surfaces after preparing food and in between preparing different foods.
4. Keep hot food hot and cold food cold. You should have a good working thermometer to temp the foods. The rule is generally 40 to 140 F. THis rule changes now and then by a degree or two but 40-140 is a good general range. So Cold food below 40 and hot food above 140.
5. Cool hot foods down quickly before refrigerating. A large pot of sauce, soup or chili should be put into smaller, shallow pans to allow for heat to escape. Cool enough to hold a hand against the exterior, about 70. Temp drop should happen within two hours.
Then get the temp to 41F or below within four hours. In short, nothing sits around all afternoon. Cool it asap and get it refrigerated.
6. Don't leave things sitting around on the counter, not even a box of crackers. Do something with it. If it is ready to eat, wrap it in plastic wrap or cover it, refrigerate it or put it back in storage. If it requires cooking, then cook it.
7 Raw chicken on the lowest shelf of the frig or walk in. Raw beef above that. Always place cooked food above raw. Always in a pan or container to catch any loose fluids. Label and date. You can use masking tape and a marker or pen.
8. Clean clothing. No one works in clothes they were doing yard work in. Aprons removed before using the bathroom.
9. Sharp knives. Not kind of sharp, or used to be sharp. Make sure the church kitchen has SHARP knives. ( This isn't a health department rule. You'll just be happier with Sharp knives, and they are less dangerous than dull ones. You don't have to force a sharp knife.)
10. Keep a broom and dustpan in use frequently.
11. Clean and convenient trash receptacles, emptied as needed.
12. Change cutting boards frequently. Cut the veggies, wash the board, cut the chicken-really wash the board, cut the bread, wash the board. Never use the same board for more than one thing without washing it. Clean and sanitize the area around the cutting board.
14. Have everything ready, chafing dishes, plates, etc. When it's cooked and hot, serve it.
15. No sneezing, coughing, or any other expulsion of bodily fluids around the food. Cover your mouth and nose, not with your hands. If using your hands, wash them immediately.
16 Anyone complaining of not feeling well or recently sick, should consider volunteering another time.
17 Use the thermometer to check the food is the right temp, generally 135 for veggies, beans grains to hot held for service, 145 for 4 minutes for roasts, 155 for 15 seconds for ground meats, 165 for 15 seconds for chicken and stuffings with meat or meat with stuffing.
18. Keep food work areas apart by distance or time as much as possible. The chicken gets prepped over here, the vegetables get prepped over there, not close to each other.
19. Keep cleaning the kitchen as you go. All dirty dishes, used utensils, etc. go to the dish area at once.
20 A three part washing sink system is necessary. Soapy wash, clean water rinse, sanitizer sink. A dishwasher, if available, should only be considered a source of heat sanitation. All items should be washed before being put in the dish machine.
 
42
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Joined May 10, 2018
This is awesome. I'm going to print it out and post it in the kitchen. One thing we don't do is use gloves while preparing non cooked foods and that is an easy correction. I also think that we don't use the sanitizer on our counters as much as should be done, often times a quick swipe with a wet cloth. Personally, I would never work with chicken when cooking for others (other than in my own home), just paranoid about poultry. I usually do vegetarian options anyway. I will be very careful about cooling anything hot quickly for storage.

There must be some sort of container that we could purchase to put ice in for cold foods for the constant potlucks going on. I have a few warming trays for hot foods I could bring. I see people bringing in chicken dishes and putting them on the table and wonder how long they've been out of the oven before they even put it on the table, then they sit for the next hour or so.

Again, a very helpful review and I can see lots of ways we can improve our practices! Thank you so so much!
Ann C.




Whether you talk to the HD or not, (and you should. Also ask about a basic food safety courses they offer as well as handouts you can bring back to the church kitchen.) the basics of food service sanitation are not complicated. I suspect most of the volunteers may already think they know them but for the sake of stating the obvious, here are some of the guidelines in no particular order.
1. Wash your hands frequently. Soap and water and vigorous scrubbing for twenty seconds.
2. When handling ready to eat foods, food handling gloves should be worn. Have S, M, L and XL sizes on hand to accommodate everyone. Ready to eat means nothing else will be done before it is eaten. So pastries, lettuce and salad veggies, cooked meats, rolls, etc. Cutting raw veg for soup is not "ready to eat". Making a salad or sandwich is ready to eat.
A couple of cutting gloves available will make the HD happy.
3. A sanitizer solution should be on hand with clean cloths to sanitize work surfaces after preparing food and in between preparing different foods.
4. Keep hot food hot and cold food cold. You should have a good working thermometer to temp the foods. The rule is generally 40 to 140 F. THis rule changes now and then by a degree or two but 40-140 is a good general range. So Cold food below 40 and hot food above 140.
5. Cool hot foods down quickly before refrigerating. A large pot of sauce, soup or chili should be put into smaller, shallow pans to allow for heat to escape. Cool enough to hold a hand against the exterior, about 70. Temp drop should happen within two hours.
Then get the temp to 41F or below within four hours. In short, nothing sits around all afternoon. Cool it asap and get it refrigerated.
6. Don't leave things sitting around on the counter, not even a box of crackers. Do something with it. If it is ready to eat, wrap it in plastic wrap or cover it, refrigerate it or put it back in storage. If it requires cooking, then cook it.
7 Raw chicken on the lowest shelf of the frig or walk in. Raw beef above that. Always place cooked food above raw. Always in a pan or container to catch any loose fluids. Label and date. You can use masking tape and a marker or pen.
8. Clean clothing. No one works in clothes they were doing yard work in. Aprons removed before using the bathroom.
9. Sharp knives. Not kind of sharp, or used to be sharp. Make sure the church kitchen has SHARP knives. ( This isn't a health department rule. You'll just be happier with Sharp knives, and they are less dangerous than dull ones. You don't have to force a sharp knife.)
10. Keep a broom and dustpan in use frequently.
11. Clean and convenient trash receptacles, emptied as needed.
12. Change cutting boards frequently. Cut the veggies, wash the board, cut the chicken-really wash the board, cut the bread, wash the board. Never use the same board for more than one thing without washing it. Clean and sanitize the area around the cutting board.
14. Have everything ready, chafing dishes, plates, etc. When it's cooked and hot, serve it.
15. No sneezing, coughing, or any other expulsion of bodily fluids around the food. Cover your mouth and nose, not with your hands. If using your hands, wash them immediately.
16 Anyone complaining of not feeling well or recently sick, should consider volunteering another time.
17 Use the thermometer to check the food is the right temp, generally 135 for veggies, beans grains to hot held for service, 145 for 4 minutes for roasts, 155 for 15 seconds for ground meats, 165 for 15 seconds for chicken and stuffings with meat or meat with stuffing.
18. Keep food work areas apart by distance or time as much as possible. The chicken gets prepped over here, the vegetables get prepped over there, not close to each other.
19. Keep cleaning the kitchen as you go. All dirty dishes, used utensils, etc. go to the dish area at once.
20 A three part washing sink system is necessary. Soapy wash, clean water rinse, sanitizer sink. A dishwasher, if available, should only be considered a source of heat sanitation. All items should be washed before being put in the dish machine.
 

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