Recipe for Success: Food and Fellowship

Posted Feb 09, 2022

Recipe for Success: Food and Fellowship

Margaret Cottle

This article originally appeared in the April 2019 issue of FOCUS.

The Cottles have been inviting students and residents into their home every week for food and fellowship for decades. Their ministry is a blessing to all UBC students. We asked Margaret to pass along some wisdom and a few favourite recipes that we’re sure will become house favourites for you too. If you’re thinking about hosting students in your home, contact your local Associate Staff or Campus Contact to see how you can help.

Here are a few tips we have gleaned over the years. Maybe there will be a few pearls of wisdom.  May the Lord richly bless you with many guests, and may He be glorified in everything.  Having an open, hospitable home is not only biblical…it’s fun!

Cooking for Crowds

Romans 12:13:  Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

1 Peter 4:9: Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.

Hospitality does NOT equal entertaining. Focus on others, not yourselves. Be hospitable and invite those who cannot return the invitation. Do not wait until you have the perfect conditions — start now! Things that have helped us 

Get a Big Pot 

We’ve been using an 18-quart roaster oven (available at Costco [sometimes] or London Drugs [almost always]) with good success.  This is like a big crock-pot, except that it has a proper thermostat and you could bake in it as well.  In addition to roasting turkeys, I use it for the soups and sauces and can cook things like chili in it from start to finish (way less clean up!).  I also have a big regular pot — 16 quarts.  Get one with a thick bottom so things do not burn.  We have a couple of stacks of Corelle plates, and about 40 stacking glasses, some extra [cheap] real cutlery and lots of mugs.  Things taste better and it feels more like home when real plates and cutlery are used. A good rice cooker is a real asset.  Get the kind with the lid that latches. 

The Meal

Find a menu that works for you and perfect it; guests do not tire of it, even if you do. Students and residents appreciate a good home cooked meal, and once you have a few standards you can whip up without thinking, it will make it easier. Do as much as possible ahead of time so you can enjoy time with your guests and aren’t trapped in the kitchen. Have a designated griller — it’s easier to prepare the meal when the main course is delegated. Use “potluck” as much as possible — e.g. our Christmas dinner — and ask each family contributes. This will give you a break and also brings some variety to the gatherings. Large scale can bring efficiency — if you batch cook, you can freeze or donate doubles of what you make. Bless others by providing meals (celebrations, new baby, illness, etc). Re-direct requests when they are unreasonable (e.g. host a dessert instead of dinner). Don’t be afraid to improvise:  use what you have and use your imagination in regards to seasoning.

Practice Makes Perfect

Keep a record of what you do.  Try using a small booklet or record things on your computer to keep track of your menu, shopping list(s), table decorations, seating charts, “when to do what” and then a “de-brief” on what worked and what you would change. This can be a great template for the next time you take on something big. You can carry it around with you and make notes as things come to mind.  As you are making your shopping list, look through your recipes to be sure you have all the ingredients, and think of what you will need to serve the items, too (e.g. remember the butter for the buns and the cranberry sauce for the turkey or the lemon for the salmon).


Hamburger Stroganoff for Roaster Oven

10 lbs extra lean ground beef

1 bag sweet onions

Brown the meat in the roaster oven and get rid of any fat.  Coarsely chop all the sweet onionsthen cook with ground beef until onions are clear.  This can take about 2 hours!

Take out half of the cooked onion and beef mixture and freeze for later.  This makes it very easy to prepare the second time.

To what is left of the beef and onions (or what you have thawed out) add:

12, 10 oz cans of sliced mushrooms (drained)

6, 10 oz cans of Cream of Chicken soup

1 tbps lemon pepper (the kind without salt)

1 tbsp paprika (mild type)

Worcestershire sauce to taste

Cook until flavours are well blended. Before serving, add 2L sour cream. Heat through without boiling. If you have to thicken it, add a bit of cornstarch mixed with water, but I usually do not need to thicken it. Serve over brown rice. Have cheddar cheese for the top as well. Some folks like cranberry sauce on it, too. I always put out Tabasco sauce for those who like things spicier.

Big Pot Turkey Chili

5-7lbs ground turkey

4 small cans of kidney beans or mixed beans—rinsed (I like the mixed beans better)

5-6 small cans of black beans—rinsed (You can use more or less depending on how much meat you use, and your own taste.  Our family likes black beans much better than kidney beans, so I use more of those.)

3 large chopped onions (or equivalent) 6 cans (at least!) (28 oz. each) diced tomatoes (or get the big #10 ones)  [Extra tomatoes will stretch this recipe.  Just be sure that they cook long enough to take on the flavour of the chili.]

2 cans (15 oz. each) plain tomato sauce (optional)

4 TBSP (or more) chili powder

Bouillon powder (or “Better Than Bouillon”—check for gluten in these), salt and Worcestershire sauce (don’t add if anyone has gluten sensitivity) 

1/3-1/2 cup brown sugar if needed to enhance the flavour of the tomatoes and take away a bit of the “acid” taste.

Cook turkey in pot, drain off any fat.  Add onions and cook until clear. (This takes a VERY long time [hours]!—I often do two recipes of turkey and onions at the same time and freeze half already cooked; the next time I make it, it is a LOT faster with this part done.)  Add everything and simmer.  Be careful when stirring so as not to mash the beans.  I make this very mild and put different flavoured bottles of Tabasco sauce on the table for people to use to make it hotter if they wish.  We often serve this on plates over rice–it’s delicious and stretches the food.  A bowl of grated cheddar cheese for the top makes it perfect.  It is also easier to clean up plates than bowls.

“Better Than Bouillon” is a paste that comes in a jar and actually contains some of the meat stock of the flavour on the label.  It has no MSG, goes into solution easily, and comes in many varieties including beef, chicken, turkey, fish and mushroom.  In addition to using it as a soup base, it also comes in very handy when making gravy, especially for large groups. Most grocery stores stock it, and I can often find it at butcher shops.

Whenever possible, I use brown rice because it is not only more healthful, but guests tend to take less of it, and the amount cooked goes further.  I find that guests often overestimate the amount of white rice they can eat, and much more of it is thrown away. When serving rice alone, I use a mix of brown and wild rice (usually 1.5 small cups of wild rice and 7.5 small cups of brown rice with the 10-cup cooker filled with water to the 10 cup mark) This stretches even better than brown rice alone and looks more interesting on the plates. 

Hamburger Barley Soup

3lbs ground beef (beef tastes better than turkey for this recipe) 

2 medium onions chopped (This is another recipe where I cook twice the amount of beef and onions initially and freeze half for later.)

After the beef and onions are cooked, add the rest:

3lbs carrots chopped (I usually use the peeled baby carrots & chop them into 3 pieces.)

4 (or more) bouillon cubes or equivalent–(see note about Better than Bouillon)

1 head of celery chopped (can be more)2 cans tomato soup—undiluted (omit if your need it to be gluten free.)

6 cans (at least!) (28 oz. each) diced tomatoes

1/2-cup brown sugar

2 TBSP Worcestershire sauce (omit if your need it to be gluten free)

Parsley to taste

1 teaspoon ground thyme

Salt and lemon pepper to taste

Later add:

500 grams barley– “pearl” or “pot” variety and adjust amount to desired thickness.  

If you have people who need it to be gluten free, take out some soup for them before you add the barley.  You may need more canned tomatoes if it sits for a while or you reheat it later (after freezing, for example)—the barley keeps growing! The barley takes quite a long time to cook so don’t wait until the last minute to add it.  

The students seem to enjoy this over rice too even though it is mixing the starches.  This is also good with grated cheddar cheese.  I also put out the Tabasco sauce for this one.

Buttermilk Corn Chowder

2 jars of real bacon bits or a “goodly amount” from one of the Costco bags you can also omit the bacon here, & provide a bowl of it as garnish when serving

10 potatoes (about 5 lbs.) cubed (sometimes I use red ones and leave the skin on)

3 large onions chopped

1 TBSP lemon pepper

1 head of celery chopped

1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

10 bouillon cubes

3-4 quarts (liters) of buttermilk

10 c. water (use less or none if you use stock or wish to use more buttermilk)

1-1.5 kg frozen corn (a better one like peaches and cream)

Salt to taste (careful here if you are using bouillon!)

Flour or cornstarch to thicken if desired. I have also used frozen hash browns as a thickener.

Cook onions.  Add everything except buttermilk.  Heat then simmer until potatoes are done. Add buttermilk last… heat but don’t boil.  Thicken if desired with cornstarch.  Also nice with cheddar or Parmesan cheese on top.  Tabasco sauce helps, too.

Moroccan Chicken

2.5-3lbs of peeled little carrots cut in thirds

3 large sweet onions coarsely chopped

4-5lbs  boneless, skinless chicken thighs 

1 kg raisins 

1 kg dried apricots cut in half (kitchen scissors work best for this sticky job)

1 ice cream tub turkey stock (about 3 L) or use Better than Bouillon + water

small can tomato paste (optional)

1-2 tea of lemon juice

1 No 10 can chopped tomatoes (or 4-28 oz cans) (You will likely need to add more later)

2 tbsp garlic powder

1 tbsp ground ginger

1 tbsp ground cinnamon

Lemon pepper

salt as needed—be careful here-if you use lemon pepper with salt or bouillon with salt, you may not need to add any salt.

Serve over couscous or rice—rice is MUCH easier as it does not stick together and can be made in the rice cooker.  I only attempted the couscous once!  See notes about rice above. May use up to 1.36 kg of raisins and apricots if you want to use the whole packages. I usually add more cans of tomatoes.  This is tastier if made the day before so that the flavours can blend.  The dried fruit soaks up the juice, so extra tomatoes are definitely needed then.

Modified Chicken Alfredo

I have also started doing a modified chicken alfredo using the cut up chicken from Costco (this one works even if the chicken has been previously frozen if you had leftovers from a chicken salad, for example) I do a big batch in my roaster oven and cook up a Costco bag of very coarsely chopped sweet onions and a Costco bag (maybe a bit more than 1) of the celery sticks, chopped coarsely.  I cook those until the onions are translucent (this takes a while and I often do this part the day before.  You can just leave it in the oven overnight and reheat the next day.  It is quite sterile once it has been cooked for a loooong time) When getting ready to serve, I add the cut up chicken, and heat it all through then add Newman’s Own classic alfredo sauce.  The amount you’ll need will depend on how many you’re serving.  Since we never know how many will come, I make up a decent amount (very precise, I know!) and then have some chicken and extra jars of sauce that I can press into service at the last minute if I need more or someone comes late after everything has been consumed.  I serve this over rice as it is much easier than pasta for a crowd. Serve with fresh Parmesan cheese and even some cranberry sauce along with the usual hot sauces to liven it up for those who like heat.


You’ll need two good size pots.  Use the bigger for the pasta, and the other for the sauce. Having a third pot of a decent size with boiling water in it is a good precaution in case you have to cook more if extra folks show up later on.

Sauce:  Use pre-made “red” sauce and add cooked ground turkey to taste.  Can also modify the sauce with extras of your choosing. Alfredo sauce is also nice. Pre-cooked chicken or shrimp (careful about shellfish allergies, though) make nice additions to this.

Pasta:   We cook a couple large bags (900 grams each) and freeze or give away the extra. We use penne, spirals or other small shapes that are easier to eat.  This also includes tortellini which are very popular, too.  We have some real Parmesan cheese for on top.

Robin’s Roast Beef Extraordinaire

Use a large eye of the round roast.  Early AM:  sear well on outdoor BBQ.  Place in open pan in indoor oven and roast 10-12 hours at about 175-180 F.  Cooked when internal temp reaches desired level.  Slice thin. Serve with buns, sliced pickles, cheese, horseradish sauce, mustard and mayo.

Baked Potato Bar

Scrub, pierce and cook potatoes (about one and a half potatoes per person [depending on the size]—takes 1-2 hours) and put out lots of things to garnish them; e.g. sour cream, butter, taco meat (usually ground turkey with regular taco seasoning as per the packet), bacon bits (buy precooked in the little jar or bag) cheese (buy it grated), sliced mushrooms, chopped peppers, green onions or chives, sprouts, salsa, chopped tomatoes, etc.  This is a good meal if you do not know exact numbers because it is flexible.  It also accommodates vegetarians and gluten-intolerant folks. (Have someone with a sharp knife and oven mitts designated to cut open potatoes as they are served.)

“Gourmet” Hotdogs

This is a very popular meal.  Rob buys a variety of “gourmet type” hotdogs from Costco along with a few “regular” ones.  Most are gluten free and we try to have some veggie ones and definitely some non-pork ones.  We serve these with buns and tortillas, pickles, cheese slices and condiments along with a variety of chips, potato salad, kale salad, and baked beans that have been in the crockpot all day. The students also seem to like this same meal with make-your-own hero sandwiches instead of the hotdogs.  Just get several types of cold cuts and cheese.


Purchased frozen and served with real bacon bits, cheese (buy it grated) and sour cream as toppings.  This is an especially good meal if you have no idea who is coming.  You can keep an extra pot on the stove with boiling water and just keep cooking them as long as folks keep arriving.


Buy lettuce already cut.  Use kale salad, romaine, organic mix or a mixture.

Chicken Caesar: Cooked sliced chicken breast, croutons, fresh Parmesan, bacon bits, Caesar dressing.

Mandarin Chicken:  Same chicken as above; drained, mandarin oranges in cans or jars; crispy chow mien noodles; poppy seed dressing.

Balsamic chicken:  pine nuts, dried cranberries, goat cheese (or blue cheese) crumbled, balsamic vinegar and olive oil—or a prepared dressing like that (I use Newman’s Own balsamic vinaigrette if I need a dressing)

Taco salad:  Taco meat and any of the other toppings noted in the baked potato bar.  Can also add some tortilla chips.  A real treat is to use the tortilla bowls to put it in.

Roast beef, ham and salmon are also quite easy.  Adding rice (a brown/will mix is nice—see above) and a salad or veggie makes it a very easy meal. You can also have buns to make sandwiches.  Costco sells nice sliced cheddar (not processed) that is great for sandwiches.  Frozen corn is also popular; allow plenty of time to cook; does not get soggy so you can start early.


Do not hesitate to buy them. (Costco and Safeway are good resources). Ice cream sundaes are easy to do — hot fudge with extra toppings is a favourite and feeds a LOT of folks, very nice with 1 or 2 of those “one bite” brownies under the ice cream.  A big bowl of Mandarin oranges or other fruit is always good. Cheesecake is good for large crowds, as is “mud pie.” If you have a really big crowd, ice cream treats from the store +/- cookies is a good dessert choice since you do not need any dishes or cutlery for these.

Chai Lattes

Chai lattes have become a regular feature every Thursday evening.  For years we served regular tea and sometimes coffee, but this took a significant amount of time and was complicated by too many choices—caffeine or no caffeine, cream, milk, or one of the many milk substitutes, sugar, honey or an artificial sweetener?  Once we started serving only the decaf chai lattes, the whole process was easy. One simple choice: take it or leave it!  Even better, the students are delighted to have this treat every week, many saying they look forward to it. There is also the benefit of a delicious aroma throughout the house to welcome guests into our home. We have a big student group and make about 8-9L every week. The amounts could be adjusted to serve smaller numbers.

Ingredients for 8-9L:

2 full boxes of Decaffeinated India Spice Chai by Celestial Seasonings

5+ L of water

2-2.5 cups granulated white sugar (to taste)

a big “glug” of pure vanilla extract

0.5 teaspoon salt

4L whole milk (3.25%)


Put 5-5.5L of water into a large pot.

Add 2 full boxes of the teabags.  They come attached together as pairs and it is wise to leave them that way as this makes them much easier to retrieve later.

Bring to a boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes until the liquid is very dark brown and the spices have been released into the water.  Do not skimp on the boiling time.

Remove the teabags (we use a big scoop with holes in it that was designed for pasta, I believe) into a large measuring cup (ours is a 6 cup sized one) and squeeze any liquid that you can back into the pot.

Add the sugar (I have tried both honey and brown sugar, but the flavour is no different and plain white sugar is much less expensive); salt (enhances the sweetness) and vanilla and stir until dissolved.

While heating on low heat, add 4 L whole milk and heat until almost boiling.  Cover, stir frequently and pay attention. If you boil it, it will get quite scummy, but it still tastes fine.  We keep a small sieve on hand to skim any “skin” off the top.  If you keep the lid on the pot, this tends to prevent the skin from developing.  However, you have to watch things carefully because it is VERY easy for this to boil over.  Not pleasant. 

Do a taste test and adjust for sweetness and amount of vanilla as needed.

We use our big 6 cup measuring cup to scoop out the chai and pour it into mugs.

This can be made at the beginning of the dinner preparations and brought back to a higher temperature just before serving.  Any leftovers can be kept in the fridge and reheated in the pot for later use or cup by cup in the microwave.

Cottles’ Wedding Punch

1 large can pineapple juice (28 oz) (or 2 liters from tetra packs)

2 liters chilled ginger ale

1 can frozen pink lemonade (not diluted)

2 liters strawberry ice cream cut into chunks

Mix everything except ice cream and then stir in the ice cream chunks.  Delicious and easy. This makes a LOT of punch.  We often mix it in a large bowl or pot before pouring what we need into the punch bowl. This is also a nice recipe because you can have enough to make several recipes’ worth on hand, but if you do not need to do so, nothing is wasted.

Do not forget to entertain strangers,  for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it. — Hebrews 13:2