Friday, April 19, 2013

Thai Curry

The other day when I arrived at the food bank, I was offered a large container of cooked tofu, veggies, and garbanzo beans from the Bowdoin College dining room.  If I didn't want it, it was going into the pig bucket.  I took it.  I froze about 2/3 of it and made Thai curry with the rest.
I cut up some carrots, onions, a red bell pepper and some broccoli, cooked them in a little olive oil and ten added the tofu mixture.  I poured in a can of light coconut milk and about half a jar of Thai red curry paste.  I cooked some rice noodles, spooned the curry over that, and sprinkled some basil leaves over the top (I picked them from my plant and snipped them into strips).  I will be having some leftovers for lunch today. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Food Bank/Pantry Photos

On Monday, Bill came in and (after getting permission), took photos of what was going on in the food bank and the food pantry at Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program.

Avocado Basil Pesto

Tonight I went to another session of the "cooking school" that is offered to our community free of charge by Parkview Hospital.  The teachers are Lyn Howe, MPH and her husband, who is a doctor in town.  The class is geared toward disease reversal (cardiac issues, diabetes, etc).  It is extremely low fat and vegan--a foodway that I know does not work for me, based on past experience, but I take the useful bits and leave the rest.  I enjoy going--I am always interested in food cultures and ideas.  Tonight, Lyn Howe wanted to focus on summer spreads.  One of the things she made was Avocado Basil Pesto.  It was so good!  I will definitely be making a lot of this.  I asked her of I could share the recipe here and she happily gave permission, so here it is:

Avocado Basil Pesto
2 cups (packed) basil leaves--washed first
1/2 cup walnuts or pine nuts (she used walnuts tonight and that's what I prefer in my pesto, too)
3/4 cup mashed avocado
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon minced garlic
3/4 teaspoon salt

Put the walnuts in a food processor and whiz until they are finely chopped.  Add everything else and blend well.

It was just lovely--bright green with flecks of darker green basil in it.  You can use it as a spread, a dip, or toss it with hot pasta.   I don't see why it would not work in cold pasta salad or on potato salad, too.

We had this on toast tonight, but I was thinking that it would probably be pretty good stuffed into small peppers--either sweet ones or jalapenos.  I think I will also experiment with different herbs--cilantro would be good. And some scallions and maybe some peppers added to the pesto itself might add some zip, too.  Maybe some parsley would be good. 

I can see myself eating this for breakfast (or lunch or supper) on a bagel or something or in a wrap with a lot of veggies.  It would make a great sandwich on good bread piled with veggies. 

It's definitely worth making--takes about 5 minutes, is very healthy, and tastes GREAT!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Spinach and Kale

Over the last couple of days, I have gotten two quart-sized bags of small kale leaves and a 1 pound bag of spinach from MCHPP.  I like using spinach in salads, but I'm the only one who does, so I knew that I was unlikely to finish an entire pound before it got slimy.  So I got down my food processor and started whizzing!  I processed stuff in batches--the kale (with stems removed), the spinach, and some hot peppers (since these keep coming home with me from the food bank, I always have quite a good supply!) all got whizzed around and then added to a pan with a couple of chopped onions and olive oil.  I cooked it, stirring around, until the onions were cooked.  I took out some to use over pasta for lunch today and tomorrow morning, I will make a rice bake.  I'll cook some crumbled hot Italian sausage.  I'll cook some brown rice.  This stuff will go into a bowl and I will add the spinach/kale mixture that I cooked today, some provolone cheese and maybe some cheddar, and some beaten eggs.  I will spread this into two greased pie pans and bake at 425 for 30-40 minutes until golden brown on top and set in the center.  We love this dish.  It's great hot or cold and for any meal of the day.  It carries well, so Bill can take some for his supper over the weekend.  We'll get 8 servings out of what I make tomorrow, so it'll be convenient to have it in the fridge for the next few days.  And I am glad I do not have to throw out slimy spinach!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Using the Surprises

It's a good thing I'm an improv cook.  I seem to be constitutionally unable to follow a recipe exactly, so I don't bother trying anymore.  I look at cookbooks and cooking magazines sometimes, but then I get an idea and go off on my own.  I do have a few cookbooks that I refer to fairly regularly--a couple of slow cooker cookbooks, an old Better Homes and Gardens paperback that I got 33 years ago when I was first married, Laurel's Kitchen, to name a few.  I have come to really value this approach to cooking, because I can see how it helps makes things much simpler.  I often have odds and ends around.  Sometimes it may be a little bit of something left in the bottom of the bag.  Other times it's some unexpected food that came home with me from MCHPP.  Being an improv cook lets me make use of this stuff and that means less food waste, less spent on food, and less time spent shopping!  Today I had some broccoli, a leek, and a lot of hot peppers from MCHPP.  The hot peppers are not hot at all once the ribs and seeds are removed, so I used a couple of them like bell peppers.  I chopped up the veggies and got out some boneless chicken.  I cut that up, too, and put it all in a pan, stirring it around and adding oregano and garlic.  Yesterday when I went in for an afternoon shift at the food bank, there was a bag of bread from a bakery in, I think, Portland.  There was a sign telling volunteers to take some and more than one person pointed it out to me and told me to take what I wanted.  There were 4 or 5 loaves left, but all but one looked like a sourdough, which none of us really like, so I passed on those.  I did grab the one loaf that was encrusted with seeds--we'd had that before and liked it.  So I had that today, too.  I sliced some of the bread, piled on some of the chicken and veggies, and sprinkled with a bit of mozzarella cheese--had a little bit of that left from the pizza I made last night.  This morning I took the lone butternut squash we had left from last fall--either from the farm or MCHPP and the two sweet potatoes I had left from the bunch we got on sale the week before Easter, and I put them in the Crock-Pot to cook.  Bill and Heather had the squash on the side, I had sweet potato, which I like better than squash.  Everyone liked the supper and I used up food so it didn't go to waste. Yay!

For dessert, I made a couple of batches of pudding with some milk that needed to be used and we will have that tonight and tomorrow night with strawberries, which came home with me from the food bank yesterday.

I never know what I might come home with when I go to do something at the food bank/pantry/soup kitchen.  But I am glad to be able to take what's offered and use it well.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

BBQ Beans with Ham in the Soup Kitchen

The other day Annette emailed me and gave me a choice of steak, chicken, or ham for the soup kitchen lunch today.  Ham is a new menu item--got it cheap from the big regional food bank.  So I said we'd give the ham a whirl.  What came into my mind was barbecue beans with ham, so I emailed her Tuesday and asked if we had beans.  We have lots and lots of dried beans, so when she got to work yesterday morning, she got a couple of big pots of beans soaking.  It was a mix of kidney, red, pinto, and lentils.  Before she left yesterday afternoon, the water was mostly absorbed, so she added more.  This morning I came in, drained them, separated them into 4 pots, covered with water and turned on the flames.  Then I started cutting up the ham.  It was already mostly sliced, so I pulled off the slices, trimmed off the edge fat, and roughly chopped it up.  There were 4 hams and a couple of people on the crew took home the ham bones to make soup with!  No waste there!  Once the ham was chopped, the beans were still boiling away and I made the sauce.  I used tomato sauce, crushed tomatoes, brown sugar, vinegar, mustard, and minced garlic.  I found some onion powder and Worcestershire pepper on the shelf in the back, so I put some of that in too.  I whisked that together.  Then I put ham in 3 of the pots of beans and kept one without.  I let them cook together for another 10 or 15 minutes while I drained the plain beans, ladled in some sauce, and got that into the steam table.  Then I drained the rest of the beans and ham and divided it into two deep steam table pans and used the rest of the sauce between them.  We served this with rolls, salad, and strawberries.  People enjoyed this a lot.  I had a lot of people coming up to the serving window to tell me how much they liked it and others had the servers tell me.  It always makes me happy to know that people have enjoyed their lunch. 

When I make the barbecue sauce at home, I use 2 tablespoons each vinegar and sugar, and 2 teaspoons of mustard to each cup of tomato sauce/tomato puree/tomato paste thinned with water.  I had figured up the amounts for today before I left, but I ended up doing a bit of improv anyway to get it right.  There's nothing that works as well as a little taste to see where you are!