As you can probably imagine I spend a lot of time, and I do mean a lot of time, thinking about food. The food for my next post in the queue is constantly on my mind. I don't know about other bloggers but I figure from start to "publish" I spend probably close to 6 hours on most posts, and that doesn't even take into account the plain old cooking I do for my family every day.
Take this post for example, I have been planning on it ever since I spent an evening with a group of kids and their parents who participate in the Share Our Strength program, Cooking Matters a couple of weeks ago. It was a wonderful evening with some involved parents, their attentive and enthusiastic kids and some dedicated folks who run the program.
For approximately 6 weeks, participants come to these classes to learn how to prepare nutritious and affordable recipes together. Each Cooking Matters course teaches kids and parents important lessons about self-sufficiency in the kitchen. Families practice fundamental lessons including knife skills, reading ingredient labels, cutting up a whole chicken, and making a healthy meal for a family of four on a $10 budget.
On the evening of my visit, macaroni and cheese with butternut squash and pumpkin chocolate chip muffins were on the menu. Under the direction of the class coordinator, everyone was assigned a duty preparing a component of the recipe. After about 30 minutes of organized chaos, the dishes were assembled and placed in the oven to cook by the class assistants while everyone adjourned to another classroom to learn about nutrition and some of the social services available to those who need them.
After their lesson everyone came back to taste the dishes they had prepared. To be quite honest, the finished mac and cheese dish was appreciated more by some than others, but the important thing was that everyone tasted a healthy twist on an old favorite. As you would probably expect, the muffins were a big hit with the kids. After the tasting and a class discussion about what was learned on this night, the families were all given a bag of ingredients to take home so they could practice the recipes if they wanted.
A week or so after visiting this class I read about Newark, NJ mayor, Cory Booker and his pledge to eat off of $35.00 for one week which is the amount allowed per person for those who are enrolled in his state's SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) program. Five dollars a day isn't much, and take it from someone who spends much of her time at the grocery store, a budget like that will certainly stretch your imagination. From gazing over the photos of Mayor Booker's $35.00 worth of groceries for his experimental week, I can tell you right now it has been a long one for him. Man does not live by canned beans and sweet potatoes alone. Maybe I need to tell him about my Something From Nothing recipes.
Ever since my Cooking Matters evening and reading about Mr. Booker's project, I have still been thinking about food, but in a different way than the usual. I am now keenly aware of how blessed I am to live the way I do. I have a pantry full of good food and a nice roof over my head. This time of year I love to make scrumptious treats and send them to my neighbors to show my appreciation to them for keeping their trash cans put away and their lawns mowed so I have a pleasant view when I look out my window. Don't get me wrong, we have our concerns and problems too, but compared to many we can't complain. It is a good life.
A couple of days ago I received an e-mail from Cooking Matters Colorado letting me know that they have just launched the Cooking Matters Colorado Social Media Recipe Challenge. Beginning December 3rd and lasting until the 14th, this challenge is open to chefs, food/nutrition and parent/mom bloggers in Colorado who would like to develop a family meal for four for around $1.40 a serving. For more information about this challenge and how to enter your recipe, or to learn more about Share Our Strength and Cooking Matters, please click on the highlighted links.
For my contribution to this challenge, I wanted to come up with something delicious and satisfying that I thought families would really make and enjoy. No matter how hard I stretched my imagination I kept coming around to comfort food, and nothing says comfort to me like meatloaf and mashed potatoes.
For my version of this entree, I decided to use a leaner protein and mix with it ingredients that were high in fiber and stretched the meal to feed heartier appetites while adding flavor at the same time. For my side I wanted to add something fun and flavorful yet easy on my budget. Without deducting for minor amounts of condiments like ketchup and a splash or milk or pat of butter, I was able to come in right at budget for my meal and I was even able to add a nice bunch of collard greens that I found on sale to round things out. No matter what your budget, I do have to say that this is a great meal.
Spicy Turkey and Black Bean Meatloaf Muffins
1 - 1/2 slices sandwich bread (whole wheat or whatever you have on hand)
1 tablespoon milk
½ small onion, finely chopped
1 small jalapeno pepper, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 pound ground turkey (white and dark)
1/2 of a 15 ounce can of black beans, drained and mashed
1 cup cooked brown rice
1 egg, beaten
Salt and pepper to taste
5 heaping tablespoons ketchup
1 teaspoon Worchestershire sauce
1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Tear the sandwich bread into several pieces and rub them together between your hands to make bread crumbs. Stir in the milk; set aside.
In a large bowl add together the onion, jalapeno, garlic, turkey, mashed beans, rice, egg, salt and pepper and breadcrumb mixture. Stir together until it is just combined; set aside.
Grease a muffin pan that has either 4 large or 6 regular size cups. Divide the meat mixture equally among the cups. Place in the oven and bake for approximately 25 minutes or until the meat is firm and brown.
While the meatloaves are baking mix together the ketchup, Worchestershire sauce and brown sugar. After the 25 minute baking time, spoon the mixture equally over the tops of the meatloaves and return to the oven to bake for an additional 10 minutes to set the topping.
Remove from the oven and let sit for 5 minutes before serving.
Orange Mashed Potatoes
1 large carrot (approximately 6 ounces) peeled and chopped
1 – ½ pounds russet potatoes (about 2 medium to large), peeled and chopped into slightly smaller chunks than the carrot
1/3 cup reserved potato cooking water or milk
1 tablespoon butter or margarine
Place carrot and potato pieces in a large sauce pan and add enough water to cover potatoes by at least one inch. Add a teaspoon or so of salt if desired. Set pan over a medium high heat and boil until potatoes are soft, approximately 30 minutes.
Carefully remove approximately 1/2 cup of the potato water before draining potatoes and carrots and reserve. Add half of the potato water or milk and butter to the pan. Mash with a potato masher or electric mixer adding additional cooking water until desired consistency is reached. Personally, I like the potatoes to be whipped with some chunks of carrot throughout the mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately.