Archive for April, 2010

Diana Says Goodbye

After a full year of working at Gleaners and Operation Frontline, my AmeriCorps obligation will sadly end on May 12th. As many of you know, AmeriCorps is a federal program that poses a challenge to its volunteers – complete 1700 hours of service in a year, and you’ll get a living stipend, emergency-based health care, and $4725 to be used for educational expenses.

Reflecting on those 1700 hours reveals how difficult that challenge really is: I was often tested with my financial limitations. With all of this, though, I found myself in a unique situation where I closely identified with the stories in the OFL classroom. Receiving food stamps myself, I felt much more personally attached to the mission of supporting a healthy lifestyle on a limited budget.

Of these 1700 hours, my favorite moments were those spent with participants, learning and being open to new experiences. I was fortunate enough to coordinate a Comer Bien class three blocks from my house, which provided a chance for me to connect with my Spanish-speaking neighbors in a way that I never had before.

I have also treasured meeting OFL volunteers and Gleaners staff, as well as the staff of neighboring organizations – people who are dedicated to improving the food system in our region. As affiliates of Gleaners, we have a powerful voice in shaping the public’s view of hunger, who is affected by it, and ways in which we can create sustainable solutions. I am proud to have been part of this conversation for a year, and I hope to continue creating meaningful discussions in the future.

Thanks, everyone, for a wonderful year!

April 20, 2010 at 9:19 pm Leave a comment

Food budgeting: Feeding a family on a food stamp budget

Did you see the AP article that featured three chefs planning meals for a family of four on $68.88 a week? Check it out here if you missed it.

Food budgeting is an important topic that we cover in Operation Frontline classes. Two of the chefs went over budget so after reading the story, I started thinking about how I would go about it, and most importantly stay within budget. I figured that with my OFL experience and limited budget myself as an AmeriCorps, this was right up my alley.

Last week I got my box of fresh, beautiful produce through Fresh Food Share, which is a community-based food distribution program run jointly through the Green Ribbon Collaborative (made up of Gleaners Community Food Bank of Southeast Michigan, Greening of Detroit and Eastern Market). For $17 this month’s box contained oranges, apples, grapes, romaine lettuce, garlic, carrots, celery, potatoes, eggplant, broccollini, tomatoes and the most gorgeous peppers I’ve ever seen. Armed with enough produce to get through the week (and I’m sure far beyond that), I already had a good foundation for my meals. In our classes we like to tell our participants to take stock of what they have and build from there so you’re not buying superfluous goods, especially with produce, which goes bad really fast. Other than berries, bananas, peppers and cilantro, I pretty much stuck to the veggies that were in my box (I got the $10 box, which still had more than enough produce for the week).

The budget buster is almost always the protein, which made up a huge portion of the chefs’ budgets in the article. I usually buy meat from Honey Bee Market in southwest Detroit because they have such great deals, including chicken legs for 49 cents a pound and tilapia for only $2.99 a pound (compare that with $9.99 sometimes at Whole Foods!!). I picked up beef for stir fry so I could use up some of those mouthwatering veggies in my produce box and tacos for meat. Honey Bee also has very cheap produce and I almost always pick up peppers, cilantro and avocadoes there on my way home from work.

For staples, I pop in to Kroger near my apartment. You really can’t go wrong with the 10 for $10 deals plus they have good meat sales. You can get a whole chicken for less than $1 per pound and that chicken goes a long way in feeding you for the week. I also got a big bag of rice here for $2.69 but I like to buy my rice at Asian markets–you definitely get a lot more bang for your buck. Same goes for seasonings such as soy sauce and sesame oil. You can get a much bigger bottle of these things than the smaller container found in the international aisles at the supermarket.

Finally one last tip for shopping on a budget is to shop in season. Strawberries are one of my favorite fruits but they’re pricey most of the time–except for now. I saw strawberries for $1 at Meijer this week while shopping for a class; at Kroger they are on sale for 2 for $3.

Check out my menus and shopping list here and here. I ended up with nearly $6 to spare but I had some of the items on hand such as soy sauce and sesame oil.

What about you? Share your own menus and shopping list in the comments below!

April 19, 2010 at 1:47 am Leave a comment

Wheatberry salad recipe by OFL volunteer Karen Lee

For my graduation classes I (@Dorothy) like to have a potluck party. Last week I had three graduations so you know what that means–tons of good eats! I made mini chocolate cupcakes with prunes for my Hazel Park class and then some zucchini chocolate chip cookies for my River Rouge class. Gotta sneak those veg and fruits in somewhere!

One dish I thought was spectacular was chef volunteer Karen Lee’s wheatberry salad. I had never tried wheatberries; I enjoyed the heartiness of the grain, which was dressed in a super delicious vinaigrette. After I begged Karen for the recipe, she graciously sent it to me. Check it out and try it for yourself! I really like the combo of onion, edamame and black beans, but this can also be adapted to your personal tastes and preferences.

Wheatberries refer to the entire wheat kernel and have a ton of fiber. Photo attribution: zandland

Recipe: Wheatberry Salad
1/2 c of Wheatberries
8 oz. of black beans
1 cup grape tomatoes
1/2 cup of edamame
1/2 cup red onion, diced
3 T olive oil
2 T red wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

1. Simmer the wheatberries in 4 cups of water for 55 minutes until tender. Drain & rinse under cold water until cool.
2. Mix with 8 oz black beans, 1 cup grape tomatoes cut in half, 1/2 cup Edamame, 1/2 cup red onion.
3. Make the dressing with the olive Oil, red wine vinegar and salt & pepper to taste.

Notes from Karen:

That’s really all there is to it! I have used other veggies, cukes, carrots, celery; and other beans white or pink kidney; and lima beans in place of Edamame. I think it is the perfect salad and is my go to when I want a quick bite. The original recipe is from a magazine and I use it because it has whole wheatberries in the recipe which I like both the taste of and the nutritional value. They’re very high in fiber!

April 5, 2010 at 2:54 pm Leave a comment

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This material was partially funded by the State of Michigan with federal funds from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program by way of the Michigan Nutrition Network at the Michigan Fitness Foundation. This work is supported in part by the Michigan Department of Human Services, under contract number ADMIN-10-99011. Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the Michigan Fitness Foundation or the Michigan Department of Human Services. In accordance with Federal law and USDA policy, these institutions are prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, religion, political beliefs or disability. To file a complaint of discrimination, write USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20250-9410 or call (800) 795-3272 (voice) or (202) 720- 6382 (TTY). USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program provides nutrition assistance to people with low income. It can help you buy nutritious foods for a better diet. To find out more contact the toll free Michigan Food Assistance Program Hotline at (855) ASK-MICH. Space-Limited USDA/DHS/MNN Credit Statement This material was partially funded by the State of Michigan with federal funds from the United States Department of Agriculture Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program by way of the Michigan Nutrition Network at the Michigan Fitness Foundation. These institutions are prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, religion, political beliefs or disability. People who need help buying nutritious food for a better diet call the toll free Michigan Food Assistance Program Hotline: (855) ASK-MICH.