Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Bean Soup Mix in a Jar--Food Pantry Demo

I did a holiday demo in the food pantry this morning. I made bean soup mix in a jar. I'd brought home herbs last week and over the weekend, I measured them out into snack sized zipper bags. This morning, Annette, the fabulous soup kitchen coordinator hunted down a variety of beans in festive colors. We had red, green, and whitish gold ones. I brought in a large bowl and a measuring cup and just dumped a bunch of beans into the bowl and mixed them up with my (gloved) hand. Then I filled quart canning jars, leaving enough room for the spice packet, which I placed on top before screwing on the lids. Sue, the food pantry coordinator mentioned that it would be nice if there was some decoration on the jars, and I told her that last year I'd improvised with some holiday napkins I'd found--I cut out the design section and placed that on top of the lids before screwing the rings on. This year I didn't see any napkins, so Sue went in search of some and found a package of Santas. They worked nicely. Everyone was stopping to look at the jars and to say how pretty they were with the mix of colorful beans and the festive Santas on the lids. People were excited to get a little gift and they were so appreciative. Many people commented that this weekend will be a great time for a big pot of bean soup, since it's supposed to get a bit colder and maybe even precipitate! I might just make some bean soup myself this weekend! I have chicken veggie soup in the Crock Pot for tonight and tomorrow night. Below is the handout I gave people. We didn't have the exact beans listed, but we used what was available in the food bank. You can improv with the spices, too--leave out the basil or Italian seasoning and add chili powder to make chili instead of soup.

As an aside, while I was standing there, one of the clients went up to Sue and thanked her for the turkey she'd gotten before Thanksgiving. She and her family shared it with another family who would otherwise not have been able to have Thanksgiving dinner.

Bean Soup Mix in a Jar
Into a quart jar, place the following (you can layer the beans or mix them all in a large bowl and pour them into the jar:
3/4 cup dried red beans
3/4 cup dried great northern beans
3/4 cup dried split peas
3/4 cup lentils
3/4 cup dried black beans

You can use whatever beans you have--you don’t have to have these exact amounts of these exact beans. Just make sure you have 3 1/2-4 cups of dried beans altogether for each jar.

Into a small ziploc bag, place herbs and spices:
2 tablespoons dried parsley flakes
2 teaspoons dried basil
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon dried oregano

OR you can use the parsley and a tablespoon of dried Italian seasoning.

Place the spice baggie on top of the beans in the jar.

Remove seasoning packet from the jar and set to the side. Rinse beans and place in a large pot. Cover with water and let soak for several hours or overnight. Drain, then put beans back in pot. Add 8 cups water, one 15 ounce can crushed or diced tomatoes and seasonings from packet. Cover, bring to boil. Lower heat, cover pan and simmer 1 1/2 hours or until beans are tender. Stir occasionally.

--add leftover cooked meat and/or veggies to the pot for the last half hour of cooking time
--use tomato paste instead of canned tomatoes--simply stir in paste during the last 15 minutes of cooking time until the broth is the consistency you like
--serve soup over rice if you like
--you can add chopped potatoes, carrots, onion, and/or bell or chili peppers to the pot at the start of cooking

Want to give this as a gift but don’t have quart jars? You can put the mix in a ziploc bag and plop it in a decorative gift bag with a copy of the directions for preparing the soup. If you are a knitter/crocheter or someone who sews, you can make festive gift bags using scraps of yarn or fabric. Just take two squares or rectangles (yarn people--swatches are great for this!), attach on three sides and add a drawstring at the top. If you don’t want to make gift bags, you can use brown paper bags--kids can have fun decorating the bags with stickers, drawings, etc. Or just reuse gift bags you’ve gotten in the past--stick in a bag of bean soup mix with a copy of the cooking instructions and you’re good to go!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

What Does "Celebrate" Mean to You?

Today A Good Eater wrote about how she loves celebrating Christmas. It was a great post and it made me think about my own way of celebrating. Like Laurie, I love Christmastime and the personal traditions that go along with it. It is actually a very important time for me and if I do not nourish myself at this time of year, I feel the effects of that neglect in the year that follows. Unlike many people though, my traditions do not involve a lot of socializing and elaborate decorating, cooking, and shopping. I decorate, but simply. Several long moves and my own growing annoyance with having too much stuff led me to donate most of my Christmas decorations and to keep just a few, most of which have been handmade by me or friends or have been given as gifts. We do not like to have a lot of stuff, so we buy very little in the way of gifts and what we do buy is either consumables or purchased from artisans, either locally or online. Cooking is something I do all the time and I like to have a break from it. It's been almost 30 years since we did away with the big Christmas meal and I have been glad about that choice every year! We decided to stop because it all became too much. My birthday is December 23rd and we were having a large meal on that day. On Christmas Eve, we would have an enormous Italian feast. Then Christmas Day and the turkey would arrive. It was too much--too much food and too much work--so we changed things. I decide what I feel like having on my birthday and I make it in advance. It is always something simple and munchie-like. It also almost always involves cheese! This year I've decided to make a smoked salmon spread and a jalapeno cheese spread. I have some crackers already and put some bread in the freezer--we get this amazing little seeded baguette from Panera at MCHPP. I brought one home yesterday and stuck it in the freezer. Last year my fabulous friend and neighbor knocked on my door with a hot homemade pizza, warm gingerbread, and freshly whipped cream. Needless to say I was well-stuffed that day!!

On Christmas Eve we have lasagna. I never put meat in my lasagna and I never boil the noodles in advance I don't buy those "no-boil" noodles, either. You get less in the package and they are completely unnecessary--I haven't boiled a lasagna noodle (or a manicotti tube, either!) in 30 years--well before those showed up in stores! It takes me about 5 minutes to put together the lasagna and get it in the oven. Simple, yet delicious. We usually have pita bread garlic bread with this--spread some butter on a pita bread, sprinkle with garlic powder and Parmesan cheese and bake until the cheese is slightly browned. Bonus--there are plenty of leftovers!

On Christmas Day we always have jalapeno cheese puffs, but whatever else we have varies depending on what we feel like. I make the puffs on Christmas Day, but everything else is made ahead of time and is finger food--we just graze quietly through the day.

So for me, the Christmas season means quiet hibernation time. I love the music. I love the darkness. I love the stillness. I love being home with nowhere to go. In fact, I have a food demo tomorrow in the food pantry lobby and I am making taco casserole in the soup kitchen on Thursday. Then I am in hibernation mode until the 30th. I have scheduled time off from MCHPP, declined invitations, and have plans to be quiet, work on some Christmas gifts for my family, and just have some quiet contemplation time. I need it very badly. I am looking forward to it very much.

Whatever your celebrations look like, I hope they are exactly what you want them to be and that this season brings you much joy!