Tuesday, December 10, 2013

You can make a nourishing soup out of food pantry staples.


I have so many things that I have wanted  to tell you about. Now that I've turned in my new book, SUPER SEEDS, I have a little more time to get to all the things I've been saving up.  I still have reviews to get to, a giveaway on deck, and a veggie festival to tell you about.

Today, I want to tell you about a pilot project I ran at our local food pantry. 

After I saw the moving film, A Place at the Table, about hunger in America, I really wanted to do something more to help. 

This was our load from the week after Thanksgiving! My car was full!


One thing that I was already doing is that I am part of a volunteer team that picks up produce, deli items, etc., from our local Whole Foods and brings them to our local food pantry. We get loads of food that might not look quite beautiful enough to make it onto the shelves at Whole Foods, but are still perfect for eating. Other volunteer teams get excess from 7-Eleven and other local stores. 

If you want to help your local food pantry, this is a great way. The homeless women and children's program I work for gets donations from Trader Joe's and Panera. Lots of food companies are committed to donating their extra food, they just need volunteers to connect their excess with the food pantries, shelters and soup kitchens who can use it.

I wanted to do something more. 

It occurred to me that the Internet is packed with blogs and posts about how a slow cooker can really stretch a food budget. Not only do slow cookers allow home cooks the opportunity to cook less-expensive bulk items (like dried beans) in a convenient way, but they allow the time-crunched cook a chance to make something wholesome and homemade, even when there is no time after coming home from work and needing to get dinner on the table.

In addition to saving time and money, slow cookers can transform food pantry staples like canned vegetables, fruits and beans into more exciting and nutritious soups, stews and chilis easily.

I set out to connect slow cookers and a little information with food pantry consumers.

Our first class was for 5 people. Each participant came away with a sheet that explained cooking dried beans in a slow cooker, how to make a vegetable stock out of kitchen scraps, how to bake potatoes and sweet potatoes and the basics of making soup in a slow cooker. Each of the participants also received a programmable slow cooker (a really pretty seasonal Crock Pot) to take home with them. Through questions and answers, we discussed making overnight oats, stretching a can of chili into a meal, and how to boost the nutrition of lots of meals by incorporating the beans cooked in the slow cooker and using those canned veggies and fruits. It was a huge success.

We are looking forward to offering the class again in the future.

Slow cookers are also great for serving soup!


Here is the basic soup I provided in the handout.


BASIC SOUP

Empty one can tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, etc., into the crock pot.

Add any other pureed canned vegetables (canned pumpkin, butternut squash, sweet potatoes).

Add any chopped fresh vegetables (except for leafy vegetables, like spinach).

Add any dry rice or grains.

Add cooked beans that have been rinsed and drained.

Add any spices, salt and pepper.

Add water to cover by at least two inches.

Cook on low for 8 hours.

In the last half hour before serving, add any quick-cooking vegetables and rinsed canned vegetables (like corn, carrots, green beans, etc.), and any cooked pasta or rice.

Add more water to thin to desired consistency.

Happy Cooking! 

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