There is a certain artistry to converting a recipe meant to serve hundreds of people to one meant to serve four people.
That’s what University of Northern Iowa Dining Services staff have done. The campus dining department recently released its first cookbook, “Best Bites,” featuring 178 of UNI Dining’s most requested recipes.
“We were like, you know what, it’s time,” said assistant director of residential dining Carol Fletcher. “We need to start doing a cookbook.”
She said she often gets requests from students and alumni, asking for recipes for favorite dishes such as Panther chili or UNI Dining’s homemade cookies. Dining Services first published recipe card packets for cookies and soup in the early 1990s. The department was considering publishing more in recent years, but decided to go for an entire cookbook instead.
The cookbook took about three years to create. Staff consulted with staff, students alumni to decide which recipes to include.
Then the recipes had to be converted. Dining hall recipes often call for things like, “five pounds of flour.” Converting that into the correct number of cups to make a smaller batch is a challenge. There were also ingredient adjustments to be made - industrial grade ingredients are often different than those found in home kitchens.
“You had to really tweak things,” Fletcher said. “Some you can never get totally right.”
To make sure they were as close as possible, cookbook creators sent the prototype recipes home with students and staff for testing.
The process of converting recipes also works in reverse - Fletcher said much of what Dining Services offers started as small batch recipes brought in by the staff.
One of her favorites is lemon tart - a recipe she remembers making with her grandmother. Other staff have also provided recipes. In recent years, they’ve tried to diversify the offerings on their menus, Fletcher said.
“We had a group of Saudi students who came in and did a bunch of recipe testing,” she said. “That was really fun and helped us integrate international foods.”
She’s worked for Dining Services for 25 years. With greater focus in recent years on buying fresh and local produce, she said she’s seen things change a lot in her time with campus dining.
“We put out hummus every day now, and I don’t know if I would have even tried to put it out when I started,” she said. “The flavor profiles have expanded a lot.”
And now, those who want to taste those flavors even after they’ve graduated can cook them up in their own kitchens.
“Best Bites” costs $12.50 and can be purchased on the UNI campus from Biscotti’s, 23rd Street Market, Piazza and Panther Pantry.
1 lb. ground beef
1/2 medium onion, diced
1/8 tsp, cayenne pepper
4 tsp. chili powder
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. granulated garlic (or 1/2 tsp. garlic powder)
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
2 15-ounce cans chili beans, undrained
6 oz. tomato puree
1/2 can tomato soup (10.5 oz can)
1 bag corn chips (10.5 oz bag)
8 oz. shredded lettuce
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 medium tomato, chopped
Combine ground beef and onions in sauce pan. Cook at medium heat until meat has lost pink color. Drain and return meat to pan.
Combine cayenne, chili powder, cumin, garlic powder and pepper. Add to meat mixture.
Add undrained beans, tomato puree and tomato soup to meat mixture. Mix well.
Heat to boiling. Reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 60 - 90 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Layer in 9X13 pan: