Welcome back! I hope you and your family are staying healthy and cozy during these trying times in our community. You know I have been thinking, it’s times like these when we are mentally exhausted and pushed to our limits that we are forced to ask for help, and that’s ok.
A couple weeks ago I brought you some recipe ideas to help when on a tight budget, but let’s take that one step further. Local food pantries are working double time to help families in need right now and most are not requiring any kind of documentation of proof of income or paperwork to be filled out. With that said, this week I wanted to bring you something outside the box — a little something everyone can use — and give you some recipe ideas using items commonly found in the boxes or bags handed out from local food pantries.
Our area has nine food pantries strategically located to provide to those scattered throughout the county. Some are still operating as normal while others have completely closed their doors due to the pandemic, however there is still plenty of food to be had in Greenbrier County. I reached out to several local food pantries and found that most are handing out roughly the same items. Some food pantries have had extremely generous donors which allows them to provide extra items such as paper products, hygiene items and a better meat selection. Other programs are able to purchase seasonal meats such as turkey and ham to provide to their patrons for the holidays.
Nonetheless each food pantry has the same goal — to help provide supplemental food to those who need it despite one’s circumstances. So, if you are in need of some assistance with food, please don’t be ashamed, seek out your local food pantry and let them help.
Next Level Canned Vegetables
Now, let’s talk food. My goal is to give you some meal or side dish ideas you can create using items found in bags from the local food pantry; some of these recipes may require a few things from the store or things you already have at home. Most places are sure to provide canned vegetables, beans and fruits so let’s start there.
Canned vegetables can be kicked up a notch with butter, of course, or by adding garlic, bacon or sugar. Take canned carrots for example. You can drain the liquid and put in a small pot on medium high heat and add butter and brown sugar or maple syrup.
You can open a can of green beans and keep the liquid this time. Pour into a pot on medium high heat and add garlic, a little butter, salt, pepper and a slice or two of bacon and let simmer for 10 –15 minutes, then reduce heat to low for another 20 minutes.
One way to liven up canned fruit is to drain off the excess liquid or syrup and mix with one tub of cool whip and 4 ounces of softened cream cheese. Chill for a couple hours (the fruit dessert not you — haha) and serve! You could also add in a powdered pudding mix or nuts to change it up.
Beans And Chili
Canned beans make a great addition to a soup and are a great added protein. White beans or navy beans are great for a white chicken chili.
For this you will use however much chicken you want — 4 chicken breasts will do or if you are using canned chicken that may also come in the food pantry bag, a couple cans will work. Sauté an onion and yellow pepper in a little oil or butter, then add the cut up chicken or canned chicken.
Once the chicken is cooked through sprinkle 1-2 packets of taco seasoning and mix well. Add a couple cans of cream of chicken soup and about 12 ounces give or take of chicken broth. Now add in those white beans and let simmer on medium heat for 20 – 30 minutes. Serve with a dollop of sour cream and some crushed up tortilla chips on top!
Thinking Outside the Box
Brian from the Alderson Food Pantry said in addition to their normal items, this time around they have some chickpeas, also known as garbonzo beans, available. You can use these to make hummus or toss into a salad to change things up. Other items commonly found in bags from the food pantry are canned tuna, saltine crackers, and ramen. Let’s talk about ways to transform these ingredients into something fun!
Let’s start with the crackers. I have two options: 1. Tuna cakes and 2. easy toffee. For the tuna cakes you will need 3-5 cans of tuna drained, about a half of a sleeve of saltine crackers, 2 large eggs, one small diced onion, a squirt of mustard, salt and pepper; lemon and dried dill if you have it. Mix the all the ingredients together and form into patties. Put about 2 tablespoons of oil in a pan and turn on medium high heat. Place your patties in the pan and cook for about 5 minutes on each side. You can serve these with veggies or on a bun with lettuce and mayo.
Now let’s move on to the toffee recipe. I use to love to make this because it is so easy. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Line a cookie sheet (with a lip on it so nothing drips) with parchment paper. Then place the saltines on the cookie sheet, getting as many on there as possible with all crackers lying flat. In a small pot bring 1 cup of unsalted butter and 1 cup of packed brown sugar to a boil and keep at a boil for about 4 minutes stirring frequently. Pour the mixture over the crackers and spread evenly. Put the crackers in the oven for 5 minutes. Once you take the crackers out sprinkle two cups of chocolate chips on the top and walk away for 2 minutes. When you come back the chips should have softened enough to spread the chocolate evenly. Let cool completely – I put mine in the fridge for an hour or so – then break apart and enjoy!
I bet you are wondering what you can do to ramen to change it up and I think I can help with that too. Make the ramen according to the directions then drain off some of the water so it isn’t so runny. Take some of those canned veggies also found in the hand out bags and drain off the liquid. Toss some veggies like green beans, carrots and even corn into your ramen to change things up. You could even slice some SPAM, fry it quickly in a pan and put some on top of your ramen with a fried egg. Think outside the box and the possibilities are endless.
While preparing to share this information with you, I was able to speak to four really helpful volunteers who help make these programs possible. I have listed their information below for you and they can provide more information on days and times available for food pick up as well as how to arrange donations:
• Brian at the Alderson Food Pantry 304-445-5231
• Lewisburg Food Locker 304-645-2676
• Wayne at the White Sulphur Springs Food Pantry (this is one of several in White Sulphur Springs) 304-536-1353
• Tina Noe, Williamsburg Food Pantry 304-392-5537
As I mentioned before there are several more food pantries located throughout the county. Please don’t hesitate or be ashamed to accept the help. Remember the goal is to think outside the box and create something fun and full of flavor. I hope this holiday season finds you healthy, warm, loved and with a full belly. As always, I am sending love from my kitchen to yours.