This week I volunteered at a local soup kitchen. My family and I have been looking for volunteer opportunities that we can all do together for a while. We were lucky to come across this opportunity. It’s such an interesting place, a soup kitchen. It’s a hodge podge of different people, from different walks of life. I really enjoyed getting to know the people there, both volunteers and clients. It was a great day and I look forward to volunteering again soon. In fact, we’re (the hubby and I) going back on Thanksgiving day to help serve.
When I volunteered to help out, they asked me to make an egg casserole. They gave very specific instructions on how to make it and what to include. It was to include white bread, some kind of meat, eggs and cheese. I was asked not to include any seasonings or even onions, peppers, etc. While I completely understand the need to make something that anyone can eat and that everyone will like, I also feel a bit frustrated by it. The offerings of the day were, egg casserole, scalloped potatoes, a muffin, and canned peaches. I appreciate the need to keep things cost effective for the volunteers who are buying and making the food, I just wish they had asked for at least 1 vegetable. I feel that families deserve to have a well balanced meal, including a vegetable.
On the flip side, I heard the organizer of the soup kitchen complaining about the food pantry part of the center. They had recently been given some fresh sweet potatoes and no one took them. When selecting their items from the food pantry, the clients bypassed the sweet potatoes, opting for the boxed and canned products instead. The organizer mentioned that the clients said they weren’t sure how to make the sweet potatoes, so weren’t interested in taking them home. Sweet potatoes are an inexpensive and delicious way to eat healthy. I feel like a little food prep education would go a long way to help people save money but also not be afraid to buy a fresh ingredient that does not include instructions on the label. Creating a meal from fresh ingredients must be intimidating when you’ve never done it before.
So all of this got me thinking about simple, inexpensive vegetables. This particular brussel sprout recipe here in this post isn’t exactly simple, there are simpler ways to prepare them. I did a little research, sweet potatoes, green beans, even carrots are all less than $2 at my local store, including enough to feed a family of 4. All that being said, I have volunteered to do a few cooking demonstrations at the soup kitchen, to help the clients there get a little more comfortable preparing meals with fresh ingredients. I’m a little intimidated by the idea of helping people learn to cook, since I myself have no formal training. However, I feel like my My Clean Kitchen experience and community has given me so much, I should share what I’ve learned.
I think my first demonstration will include a few simple ways to prepare a sweet potato, wish some tasting samples for people so they can see how delicious it is. I’m sure I’ll have some fun stories and can’t wait to share them with you in the coming months. I’d love to hear about your volunteer experiences. Any tips to help me get started?
Now, in the spirit of the holidays, I decided to make a red and green side dish to share. This sprout slaw is super delicious, and beautiful. I hope my holiday spirit is contagious. If you are looking for a local volunteer opportunity, visit the Hands On Network to find a volunteer center near you.
Local Ingredient: Salt from a J.Q. Dickinson Salt Works
1 lb brussel sprouts
1/2 cup fresh cranberries
1 tbls coconut oil
1 tbls dark maple syrup
1 tbls balsamic vinegar
Sea Salt and black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup chopped pecans
- Cut the stem off each brussel sprout, then coarsely chop the sprouts into desired slaw size.
- In a medium sized skilled with tall sides, add the coconut oil over medium high heat.
- Add the cranberries and cook for about 1 minute, stirring to prevent sticking.
- Add the brussel sprouts and stir to combine. Continue cooking occasionally stirring to remove the bit off the bottom. Cook until sprouts begin to brown slightly.
- Drizzle in the maple syrup and balsamic vinegar.
- Remove the sprouts and set aside. Season with sea salt and black pepper.
- Add the chopped pecans to the skillet and toast slightly, about 3-4 minutes.
- Remove the pecans and sprinkle them on top of the sprouts.
- Serve warm.
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