Friday, July 31, 2009

How to cook a meal for one-hundred people (and actually feed ninety-five).

Short version:
Take a recipe which you like and which you think more people should taste. For me this was "Stewed Taro with Green Onions" which I had discovered after falling in love with taros in Taiwan.
For all other meal components, take some recipes which you liked from previous meals (they should be on the blog). Replace as many ingredients as you can by seasonal things.
Write a shopping list and be around all day so volunteers can ask you questions. They know by themselves how to do all the things needed to make a meal, likely even better than you do.

Long version:
Here are some of the troubles I ran into, some tips, and finally a list of ingredients which I think made up the final meal. (But I am not sure about the details of it.)

My zeroth mistake (before even starting, that is) was to not ask for directions to the Farmer's Market on time.  I was saved because one of the volunteers who came shopping knew the location.

My first mistake was to take a recipe off the Hot Yam! blog without checking the numbers. In June, we only cooked for about 50 to 60 people and I was planning for a hundred.  Fortunately the recipe was for our dessert and I had bought enough peaches for the crisp and could run and get more of the other stuff, too. So we didn't manage to bake the dessert on the evening before, but we had it all ready to bake in the fridge and it took us almost no extra time to deal with in the morning.

My second mistake was not to check with my lovely volunteers whether they had actually bought all the things on the shopping list. In the case of lentils we had wisely foreseen that the store might not have enough on display and told the shoppers to ask the clerks for refills from the back. But apparently the back of store also ran out and I noticed the lack of lentils only in the early morning when cooking them. In the end, it turned out that having 17 cups of lentils instead of 25 was not much of a problem, but it made me feel that our success was more due to luck than due to skill.

My third mistake was to have three people peel and mince garlic for two hours. Maybe it was less than six person-hours spent on this, but I think that it was a bit of a waste of time, given that there were lots of other things to do. When some of the people had to leave and the garlic was still not done, we just chopped it up coarsely which was good enough for the meal.

My fourth mistake was to give somebody a laborious job and tell him to grab more help once more people showed up.  Half an eternity later, he was still doing it by himself and not much advanced, while other people were standing around looking for work.

My fifth mistake was to do things by myself instead of helping people do things. Sometimes I was too busy to know what's going on in the kitchen at large. Also, it's not fun to work by myself when others are working together and happily chat while they do it.

My only advice is what I think is the most important function of the leader: make sure that nothing that needs to be done is forgotten and make sure that new volunteers learn enough to be productive helpers.

Now here come the recipes: For the stew, I bought 27 lbs of taro of which we had to throw one or two away because it didn't meet our high quality standards. For garlic and green onions I don't know how much we actually had. The soy sauce was added to our taste; it was less than a bottle

The salad was planned for 100, we sold about 74 and I think with the volunteer meals, the recipe yielded about 90 to 95 servings. (At one point, we made the salad servings bigger, because it seemed we had more salad than soup, so there is no fixed measure of what a serving is.  Feeds any number from 60 hungry people to 120 dieting ones.)

(Except for the onions, I bought all the herbs and veggies myself and the numbers are correct. For the onions, 10 is the number from the shopping list and I only saw them when they were chopped up. Also don't know if it was big or small ones. If recipes really mattered, we should go by weight for everything but liquids!)

7 cups of green lentils (cooked)
10 cups of red lentils (cooked, note: cooks faster than the green ones)
10 onions (marinated in salt overnight, which --as I once read-- makes the softer)

and all those things fresh from the Farmer's Market at Bloor and Borden streets:
5 bunches of coriander (cilantro)
5 bunches of arucula
4 or 5 bunches of basil
4 bunches of oregano
4 FMB green beans
3 FMB red tomatoes
3 FMB yellow tomatoes
4 bunches of baby carrots

freshly squeezed lemon juice (we had about net of lemons that did not give much juice)
less than a bottle of olive oil
other things which only the dressing-making volunteer knows and which might include some apple cider vinegar which I put on her counter.

Personally I was not much involved in making the salad. Maybe that's why I liked the salad most of all meal components.

As a bonus, I conclude my reflections with a list of most memorable moments:
  • my first taste of the salad when I got my full plate served by one of our lovely volunteers.
  • the scent of oregano and basil when I bought them and later every time I passed by the herbal volunteers just to take another fresh breath.
  • me in tears, handing back the unknowingly thrown away onion bottoms to Kira. I felt so sorry for my unqualified messing with her job. (But the tears were due to the frying of garlic.)
  • stewing the taro with Keith.
  • finding a job assignment that did not involve Giovanna washing anything.
  • Guru's smiling face and bright eyes when we went to the farmer's market. (Totally justifying the twisted reasoning I had to make up to justify her coming with me and the men going to Kensington market.)
  • full opportunity to engage with my most-loved job at the Yam: scraping the bottoms of the dessert-pans.
On my next meal there will be German food (but no sausages) and I will make different mistakes to make sure that I keep learning things.

Behind the curtain: Me and Giovanna in a heated debate. "Everything went wrong! We did not have enough lentils, the crisp recipe was not right, this is lacking organization."
- "No, I think you are doing great."
At this point one of our patrons walked up to us: "I just want to say that I am coming here often and this was one of the best meals that I had for a while. It was really delicious."
Giovanna: "There you go."
me: "Maybe you are right."

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Hot Yam! lunch, Thurs. July 30

What's for lunch?  A yam!

Mark your calendars -- this week's meal is on.  Join us for a delicious, vegan, mostly local and mostly organic meal organised, cooked, and served by our lovely volunteers

This week's meal is a bit different -- inspired by this week's meal lead, Jack, after his recent trip to Taiwan:

Here's le menu:
  • Stew of Taro (芋头) in its own juice
  • Lentil salad with coriander (香菜) and seasonal vegetables
  • Baked sweet potatoes (地瓜)
  • Peach crisp
We'll serve from 12-2pm, Thursday in the Baldwin Room, International Student Centre, 33. St. George St.


Saturday, July 25, 2009

vegan chocolate pudding never looked so good...

The spatula-lickin'-good pudding recipe is from the cookbook Vegan with a Vengeance.

chocolate pudding

2 cups soy milk
3 T arrowroot or tapioca starch
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cups cocoa power
1 t vanilla extract
1/8 t almond extract

in a small saucepan off the heat whisk together the soy milk and arrowroot until the arrowroot is dissolved. add the sugar and coca powder. place over meduim heat and whisk constantly until the mixture thickens, about 7 minutes. once the mixture starts to bubble and is quite thick, turn the heat off. mix int he extracts. chill in fridge for an hour and then cover them with plastic wrap and leave in fridge overnight.

Falafel recipe found here. Grab some pitas, stuff them with hummus, tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce (etc) and add a few falafel ball (which are really healthy when broiled in the oven and not fried.)
The pea soup recipe was really simple. We got our recipe from the Peoples Potato Vegan Cookbook but you can try this recipe and get the same effect.
And lastly the cucumber salad was super easy. Cut cucumbers into cubes and then coat them in a simple dressing using ingredients like olive oil, white wine vinegar, lots of lemon juice, dill, salt, pepper, and anything else your heart desires.

Thank you to everyone who came out to try the meal, and also thanks to the amazing volunteers who came to help out! New volunteers are always welcome and very much appreciated :)
An extra special thanks goes to Sam for taking so much leadership with the meal this week (thank her for the pudding!)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Hot Yam! Lunch, Thursday, 12-2pm


The hot yam! is serving up our vegan, mostly local, mostly organic goodness this week at our regular Thursday 12-2pm time slot. 

Le menu:

- Grilled Vegetable Focaccia
- Spicy Carrot Soup
- Strawberries!

Plus a drink of some sort, and plenty of smiling faces.  I promise.

When: Thursday (tomorrow), July 16, 12-2pm
Where: The International Student Centre, 33 St. George St.
What: See above.  For $4 dollars.

Why: Because we believe UofT needs good, affordable and accessible food, 'course.
Who: You! (And your colleagues!)
How:  Well, you just show up and I'm quite sure you'll figure the rest out.

Le Yam.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Meal announcement: Thursday 12-2pm @ ISC

Hello lovelies,

It's that time of week again. The Hot Yam! is serving up some wholesome vegan organic local deliciousness made by our beautiful volunteers, especially for you. Yes, you! What luck!

This week we're not able to do our usual Wednesday prep work because the ISC is closed for Canada Day -- so we're going to cram all our cooking into three hours on Thursday morning, which means....

We can really use your help Thursday morning from 9-12am in the ISC kitchen. Come volunteer with us and help us wash, chop, stir, season, toss, bake, shake, and serve. No experience required -- just a profound love for the chaotic! Did I mention volunteers eat for free? Just show up when you can, for as long as you'd like.

Or, of course, if you're okay with being boooring you can just come and eat our amazing meal. Share the love and bring your friends too!

This week's menu:
  • Everything-that's-in-season salad
  • Rainy-day red lentil soup
  • Charming cherry chocolate cupcakes
  • They're-just-so-good-on-their-own Cherries
See you there!

The Hot Yam!

p.s. The International Student Centre (ISC) is located at 33 St. George St.

June 25, 2009 Recipes

Here's the recipes from last week. This is scaled to about 40-50 people.

Cool curried apple soup


10 small onions, finely diced
1.5 c safflower oil
4 T. curry powder
5 T. ginger, minced
2.5 cup apple cider
30 lbs. cooking apples of choice, peeled, cored, and diced
40 cups vegetable stock
10 cup apple juice
10 cup soy milk

1 c. lemon juice
salt and pepper, to taste

In 3 large pots, saute the onions in oil for 5 minutes or until soft. Add the curry powder and ginger, and saute an additional minute. Add the apple cider, and stir well to deglaze the pot. Add the diced apples, vegetable stock, and apple juice, and bring the mixture to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 20-25 minutes or until the apples are tender. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Immersion blender it! Whisk in the soy milk, a little of the lemon juice, and season to taste with salt and pepper. If desired, add additional curry powder, apple juice, or lemon juice to the soup to adjust the sweetness or spicy flavor of the soup. Serve hot or cold.

comments: we chilled the soup after cooking the apples. The next morning we blended it and wisked in the soy milk. And we entirely omitted the lemon juice as the apples we used were sour enough we thought.

Asparagus mint salad


  • 2.5 c lemon juice
  • 2.5 c olive oil
  • 60 kalamata olives, chopped
  • 3.5 c fresh mint, chopped
  • 10 pounds asparagus, steamed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 10 red bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 8 small onions, finely chopped
  • salt
  • pepper

Directions Whisk together lemon juice, olive oil, olives, and mint, then toss with remaining ingredients.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes


30 lbs of sweet potatoes

3 c. safflower oil



¾ c rosemary crushed

Directions: clean and cut sweet potatoes into cubes, toss with oil salt pepper and rosemary – roast until done.



  • 20 cups sliced rhubarb
  • 5-6 quarts of strawberries, chopped slightly.
  • 15 cups sugar
  • 1 c. flour
  • 4 T cinnamon

Place rhubarb in roasting pans. In a bowl, combine sugar, flour & cinnamon.
Sprinkle over fruit. Set aside


  • 8 cups flour
  • 5 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 2 T. salt
  • 5 cups margarine
  • 5 cups uncooked oatmeal

Combine flour, brown sugar & salt. Cut in margarine until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in oats. Sprinkle over fruit. Bake 1 hr. at 350 degrees