Florida Vacation - Cooking for a Crowd

While I've been back at home for a couple of weeks, I still dream of my vacation in Florida. I miss the beaches and the vast bodies of water. I miss seeing dolphins fishing just a few feet from the edge of our dock. I miss taking spontaneous boat trips with people I only get to see every few years. I miss playing on the tiny sail boat. I miss doing yoga on an empty beach.

And I miss the meals. 

With about two dozen or so mouths to feed, meals became the event of the day - especially supper. The food was fun and fabulous, but the meals included more than just food. It was the conversations with rarely seen family members. It was the laughter and sometimes tears of boys playing together. It was the chill of the evening air. It was Florida.

Looking for herbs in the garden
My husband's aunt loves to cook like I do, so we ended up doing most of the meal planning and cooking together. Coincidentally, we are both vegetarians, so all of our meals were vegetarian. We didn't hear any complaints. 

Fiesta Burrito Bake
I normally cook for two people. Martin likes almost everything I do, with the exception of a couple of ingredients. So, I'm used to just cooking food that fits my tastes. 

With cooking for over 20 people, I now had to consider cooking for children, for people who love spice, for people who hate spice, and many other food preferences. How we choose to nourish our bodies is a personal choice. I tried to respect that choice as much as possible while keeping my sanity. 

Many meals were enjoyed on the dock.
Knowing the amount of food to cook was also a challenge. If I cut up half an onion for a dish that feeds two people, do I need to cut up 10 onions for a dish that feeds 20 people? Eek!

Our numbers grew every day; it was a constant challenge to try to figure out how much food to cook. Leftovers were OK, but not great because there usually weren't enough to feed everyone the second time around. I struggled with trying to figure out how much food to make, but I loved that challenge. I don't often cook for large crowds day after day.

Vegetable bean soup
Our meals were simple. Vegetable bean soup. Sweet potato soup. Tomato soup. Quinoa pilaf. Lasagna. Pasta with gorgonzola. Roasted vegetables. Arancini. Freshly made whole wheat bread. Lettuce salads at every meal. 

Quinoa pilaf, roasted cauliflower, lettuce salad, tomato soup, arancini
Their simplicity was necessary with amount of food we made. Yet, everything was delicious. 

When I returned home, I was inspired to continue to make delicious meals that used simple techniques. I made my first homemade vegetable stock and used it in the best tasting miso soup of my life. I made sushi and made terrible sticky rice. I made whole wheat french bread, and for the first time I used a bread sponge to add flavor. 

The weather was miserable in Minnesota when I returned. We had enough snow coming down to close interstates and schools. Uhg. So, to channel spring, I turned to a soba noodle salad.

Soba Noodle Salad
The concept is simple: cooked soba noodles, cabbage, cucumbers, tomatoes, green onions, and fried tofu. A simple rice vinegar-based vinaigrette coated the vegetables. A spicy tahini ginger dressing coated the noodles. I was happy. For days. 

Spring is starting to spring in Minnesota. The snow is slowly melting and soon it will be warm enough to take the bikes out for a spin. Until then, memories of Florida will have to keep me warm.