As the Pavilion’s Executive Chef, I am constantly searching for great simple ingredients that a little kitchen alchemy can turn into a beautiful composed dish. The hunger bags present an amazing opportunity to a chef as they are the items that the Food Bank needs most, and also during a time when kids are out of school and no longer receiving the meal assistance that is offered during the school year. Our children are our future, and I strongly advocate involving your children or grandchildren in the kitchen. Simple, safe, and fun tasks such as shucking corn or starting an herb garden allow kids to get their hands dirty and learn about the importance of healthy, nutritious food in their lives. I invite you to try the recipe below, which focuses on the importance addressing of our communities’ direct needs and our ability to change the face of hunger.
Chef’s Tip: Tortilla soup is traditionally served with a number of garnishes allowing the diner to customize their eating experience! Choose produce that you can slice fresh to add a variety of textures and flavors. Crunchy radishes, crisp shredded cabbage, and vibrant herbs such as cilantro all make great additions to this soup. This is also a great way for kids to learn about and try different veggies!
Fun Fact: This tortilla soup recipe utilizes the whole kernel sweet corn from the Hunger Bags which is pureed into the soup base. This method allows the natural sweetness of the corn to enhance the soup, also lending beautiful supporting flavors to the corn tortillas which are the namesake of the dish.
RECIPE: QUICK AND EASY TORTILLA SOUP
Preparation time: 20 mins | Number of servings: 4
- 2 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter
- 1 cup Tortilla Chips, crushed
- 2 “15 oz. cans” Signature Kitchens Tomato Sauce
- 2 “15 oz. cans” Signature Kitchens Diced Tomatoes
- 1 “15 oz. can” Signature Kitchens Whole Kernel Corn, drained and rinsed
- 1 cup or more as needed Chicken Stock or Vegetable Stock
- 2 teaspoons Cumin, ground
- 2 teaspoons Mexican Oregano, dried (if not available use standard oregano)
- As needed: Kosher Salt and ground Black Pepper
- 1 bunch Radishes, sliced
- 1 cup Signature Kitchens canned black beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 bunch Cilantro, washed, leaves only
- 1 cup Tortilla Chips, crushed
- 1 avocado Fresh Avocado, sliced
Customize to your preference! Seasonal vegetables of your choice: tomatoes, bell peppers, roasted summer squash, roasted corn, or shredded cabbage.
1. Heat a large soup pot over medium heat. Add butter and toast tortilla chips for until crispy and golden brown. Add all other soup ingredients and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 10 minutes,
then remove from heat.
2. Prepare a blender by removing the middle insert of the cap (this will allow the steam to escape as the soup purees). Fill the blender to no more than half capacity with soup, place the
lid on the blender, and cover the hole in the lid with a folded kitchen towel. This process is vital to follow as the soup releases lots of steam when pureed and needs to be vented.
3. Puree all of the soup until a smooth consistency is reached, adding additional chicken or vegetable stock if you prefer a thinner soup. Serve with optional garnishes above and enjoy!
Summer is here! And with it comes the tradition of grilling and barbecuing. Grilling food involves cooking it at high temperatures for a short period of time. Grilled foods are tasty and flavorful without too much added fat as compared to frying.
Some tips for safe and healthy grilling, as recommended by www.eatright.org:
- Choose lean cuts of meat as fat from meat may burn the outside while leaving the inside under-cooked.
- Marinate the food adequately before grilling to add flavor.
- Make your own marinade by combining salty, sour and sweet tastes – like soy sauce, lemon juice and honey and add your favorite spices and herbs like crushed black pepper, garlic, ginger
- Tools like tongs, spatulas and platters are necessary to help grill food.
- Gas and charcoal grills are popular, though temperature control is easier in gas grills.
- Seafood, tofu, tempeh and veggies like corn, portabella mushrooms, peppers, sweet potatoes and carrots are also cool foods to grill.
- Meats should be cooked thoroughly to prevent food-borne illnesses. Click here for more info on cooking
- Likewise, it is a safe practice to keep raw, cooked, hot and cold foods and the associated utensils all separate from each other.
- Avoid charring food, as charring produces substances in the food which may cause cancer.
Here’s wishing you a happy summer and safe grilling!
Papayas are sweet, succulent with brightly colored flesh, reminding us of sunny beaches on tropical islands. These tropical beauties are rich in beta carotene, vitamin C, folate and potassium. Papayas are grown in Florida and Hawaii in the United States, and are in peak season during early summer and fall. While buying papayas, select ones that are firm to touch, the skin being partly or mostly yellow in color and without bruises. Papayas may be stored at room temperature for a few days until the skin turns completely yellow-orange, and the ripe fruit can be stored in the refrigerator for up to one week.
Fun Fact: Did you know that papayas contain the enzyme papain which is used to tenderize meat? Try a marinade of smashed or crushed papayas. Add them to a Ziploc bag with your uncooked meat and refrigerate before cooking!
Here are some additional ways to enjoy this delicious fruit:
- Chop up some papayas and add to salsa, salads or breakfast cereal for a sweet twist.
- Add them to smoothies.
- Purée some papaya in a blender and freeze in popsicle molds for some papaya popsicles.
- Dice them and enjoy as is with a squeeze of lemon juice or along with other fruits and relish a yummy fruit bowl.
Over the last week or so, you may have heard about the update our Nutrition Facts Panel will be receiving. Can you believe that our current label is 20 years old?! The changes to our label reflect new scientific findings and will help consumers when choosing healthy food options.
Here’s a quick guide to the refreshed Nutrition Facts Panel:
1. Start with the Serving Size
Serving sizes must now be based on the amounts that people are actually eating, not what they should be eating. Always compare your portion to the serving size listed. Is it bigger? Smaller? If the serving size is one cup and you eat two, then you’ll get double of what’s listed on the label.
2. Check Out the Total Calories
This number is huge now! Can’t miss it. Whether you count calories or not, it’s always a good idea to be aware of how much energy your food is giving you.
3. Daily Values are Your Guide
The Percent Daily Value is based on 2,000 calories per day. You may eat more or less than that, but it’s a good general guide. If a nutrient has 5% or less % DV, then that’s considered low. If its 20% or higher, that’s considered high.
So if you have a healthy nutrient you want enough of, like Fiber, do you want that closer to 5% or 20%? Right, 20%!
If you have a nutrient you want to limit, like Saturated Fat, Sodium, or Added Sugar, do you want that closer to 5% or 20%? Exactly. 5%!
4. Additions to the Panel
Take a look under sugar on the new label, what do you see? Added sugar! We’ll now be able to track exactly how much added sugar we’re consuming. The recommendation is less than 10% of your total calories should come from added sugar. So for someone on a 2,000 calorie diet, that would be 50 grams or less. But overall less is best!
Vitamin D and Potassium are now required to be on our new label. These are nutrients that Americans don’t always get enough of.
The changes to our Nutrition Fact Panel will start to roll out soon and by July 2018, major manufactures will be required to use this format. So pay closer attention to the foods you’re buying. Can you spot any new labels?
June is National Dairy Month. Dairy includes milk and its products like yogurt, cheese, cream and sour cream. Milk, yogurt and cheese are excellent sources of calcium, protein, riboflavin, vitamins A, B12 and D, phosphorus, potassium and magnesium. Try choosing unsweetened and low-fat, skim, part-skim or fat-free milk, yogurt, cheese, cream cheese and sour cream to reduce the amount of sugar and fat we eat. Also, buy cheese with lower sodium content. Lactose-free milk and reduced-lactose milk is widely available for those who are sensitive to lactose.
A fruit and yogurt parfait is a perfect and easy way to celebrate National Dairy Month, don’t you think?
Recipe: Peachy Parfait
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Number of servings: 1
- ½ cup peaches or your favorite fruit – washed, pitted and diced
- ½ cup low-fat plain Greek yogurt
- 2 to 3 mejdool dates – pitted, soaked in warm water and puréed
- 1 tbsp toasted nuts or granola
- A pinch of cinnamon powder (optional)
1. Toss the cinnamon powder with the peaches.
2. Mix the date puree with the Greek yogurt.
3. To serve, start with a layer of yogurt in a serving bowl.
4. Next, add a layer of peaches and nuts or granola.
5. Repeat this to get 2 layers each of yogurt, fruit and nuts/granola.
It may surprise you to learn that San Diego has one of the most effective solutions to hunger at our fingertips. It’s called CalFresh, a program that is designed to uplift families by ensuring people receive the sustenance they need, enabling them to focus on working toward self-sufficiency. That’s a big deal.
But thousands of families in San Diego County who are eligible for CalFresh don’t use the program. Why? There are a few reasons, but a major cause is that decades ago, CalFresh was called “food stamps.” These two words conjure up a storm of stigma, stereotypes and misinformation powerful enough to keep families struggling with hunger from applying for this food assistance.
While the connotations of food stamps have always been based in myth, today they are further from the truth than ever. The reality is that after decades of improvements and technology upgrades to the program, CalFresh has become one of the most effective, wide-reaching strategies we have for bringing food to the plates of people who don’t have enough to eat.
We invite you to learn these facts about CalFresh and share them with your friends and family. If we remove the harmful stigma of CalFresh and build awareness of its benefits, we will be one step closer to ensuring no one in San Diego has to go to bed hungry.
What exactly is CalFresh?
CalFresh is simply a monthly supplement to a household’s food budget. On average, the program offers $4.38 per person, per day disbursed to a debit card (called an EBT card) that can be used to purchase a limited category of food products (no tobacco, alcohol, toiletries or hot foods). Households with incomes at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty line should apply to see if they qualify for the program.
CalFresh is the California name for the federally funded program called SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) at the national level. It is the more advanced, modern and effective iteration of “food stamps.”
Does it work?
Like a charm. On average, households in San Diego County enroll in CalFresh for just under two years before moving towards food security. CalFresh changes lives – just ask Jim.
What’s the problem?
Only an estimated 67 percent of eligible, food-insecure people in San Diego County are enrolled in CalFresh. Enrollment rates are low because of barriers like social stigma, lengthy application processes and lack of awareness.
To fix this, San Diego Hunger Coalition leads the CalFresh Task Force, a group of over 50 organizations including the San Diego Food Bank and others, working together to improve our CalFresh enrollment systems. By leading research, education and advocacy efforts among a wide range of hunger relief partners in San Diego, the Hunger Coalition builds a more effective and interconnected system of food assistance resources to help families access the food they need.
What are some myths about CalFresh I can help debunk?
Myth: CalFresh has high rates of fraud.
Fact: CalFresh has one of the most rigorous quality control systems and the lowest fraud rates of any public benefit program, less than 2%.
Myth: Applying for CalFresh can impact my immigration status.
Fact: Applying for CalFresh does not affect your immigration status or your application for citizenship in any way. Legal permanent residents are eligible for CalFresh immediately in California, and receiving benefits will not hurt your chances of becoming a citizen. Similarly, if you are an undocumented immigrant and apply for CalFresh on behalf of your citizen children, your immigration status will not be shared with authorities. Confidentiality is strictly enforced at all CalFresh offices.
How can I make a difference?
Share the facts with your friends and family on Facebook and Twitter. If you think a friend or neighbor may qualify for CalFresh, tell them that many community-based organizations like San Diego Food Bank are able to help them through the enrollment process. Click here for more information on these agencies.
Springtime offers a bounty of fruits and vegetables. Because they are one of the first fruits to ripen in the spring, May is the month of strawberries! Strawberries are rich in vitamin C, folic acid, potassium and fiber. They are healthy, delicious and bite-sized, and make a great snack. These berries can also be used to make salads, sandwiches, smoothies, preserves, fruit skewers, or try them sliced and served with yogurt or ice cream. Did you know that strawberries are red because of anthocyanins which help fight cancer, heart disease and diabetes? Can you say super fruit?!
Choose bright red strawberries with bright green caps, making sure there is no mold on the berries. It is recommended that you eat strawberries as soon as possible or store them at room temperature for a few hours or in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days. Wash, remove the hulls and freeze strawberries in freezer bags to store them for longer periods.
There are some quick and easy recipes with strawberries on www.eatright.org – one of my favorites being a quick, delicious and creamy ice cream using strawberries, Greek yogurt and avocados.
Recipe: Quick Strawberry-Avocado Ice Cream
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Freezing time: 1 hour
Number of servings: 2
½ a ripe avocado, peeled
½ cup strawberries, washed and hulled
½ cup vanilla Greek yogurt
3-4 strawberries, washed, hulled and sliced
1. Blend the ingredients together in a blender or food processor until smooth and creamy.
2. Transfer mixture to a freeze-friendly container and freeze for an hour or so.
3. Serve cold with sliced strawberries.
4. For a fun twist, the ice cream mixture may be poured into Popsicle molds.
Here’s wishing you a berry sweet and fruitful May!
This month we are increasing awareness about preventing osteoporosis and maintaining good bone health. Osteoporosis is a medical condition in which the bones become brittle and fragile due to bone loss. The bone loss may be caused by several factors including sedentary lifestyles, deficiency of nutrients like vitamin D and calcium, and hormonal changes. Bone health is important at any age, because bones support and protect our body. Childhood and adolescence are bone building years, and peak bone mass is attained between late teens and early twenties. Higher peak bone mass is associated with decreased risk of osteoporosis later in life.
Here are some ways to increase or protect your bone health, as recommended by the National Osteoporosis Foundation.
1. Get sufficient vitamin D through sunlight, diet (fatty fish like mackerel, tuna and salmon and fortified foods like milk, orange juice and cereals) and/or vitamin D supplements if recommended by your healthcare provider.
2. Exercise, especially weight-bearing exercise like weight training, walking, hiking, jogging, tennis, and dance.
3. Eat a well-balanced diet including:
– Calcium-rich foods like milk, yogurt, green leafy vegetables and beans
– Lean protein like lean meat cuts, fish, eggs, beans, peas, nuts and dairy
– Vitamin C-rich foods including citrus fruits, cantaloupe, mango, broccoli and bell peppers
– Vitamin K-rich foods including kale, collards, turnip greens and beet greens
– Potassium-rich foods
– Magnesium-rich foods like whole grains, dates, nuts, seafood, spinach, potato, sweet potato,
chard, okra and pumpkin
– Omega 3 Fatty Acids-rich foods:
Plant based foods like flax seeds and oil, chia seeds, hemp seeds, walnuts, canola
oil, seaweed, purslane and edamame
Fatty fish including tuna, anchovies, sardines, halibut, oysters, salmon and
4. Make healthy lifestyle choices by avoiding smoking and reducing alcohol consumption
Hope you have a healthful and happy Osteoporosis Prevention Month!
This week is Food Allergy Awareness Week. Food allergies are unpleasant and can trigger potentially dangerous reactions of the immune system to the allergy-causing foods or food allergens. Food allergies may develop in childhood or adulthood, and may persist or disappear; though their cause is unidentified. Symptoms include digestive trouble, rashes, hives, swollen airways and sometimes the potentially fatal stage of anaphylaxis*. The best way to avoid food allergies is to eliminate the problematic food or allergen from the food we eat. Food labeling laws require the most common food allergens be listed on foods. Some products that may contain food allergens in hidden form include cosmetics, certain medicines, pet food and toys – making it super important to read and understand ingredients in food labels. Although any food can cause an allergic reaction, the majority of food allergies are caused by eight common food allergens.
See image above for a food allergen substitute graph.
Finally, as a mother of a preschooler with a severe peanut allergy, I consider it especially important to educate children with food allergies as well as their parents, siblings, peers in school, teachers and extended family members about avoiding and managing food allergies to help prevent allergic reactions. Click here for some useful tips to stay safe and allergy-free!
*It’s important to know that anaphylaxis requires treatment with epinephrine and medical care involving monitoring vital signs.
The first week of May is National Herb Week, and the chili pepper is the herb of the year for 2016. Chili peppers are good sources of vitamin C, most of the B vitamins, potassium, magnesium and iron, and can range from sweet (like bell peppers) to spicy (like ghost peppers) in taste. They come in a rainbow of colors, shapes and sizes.
Stuffed peppers are a perfectly flavorful way to celebrate National Herb Week this year. To make stuffed peppers, a variety of peppers like bell peppers and poblano peppers may be used. And herbs like mint, oregano, basil, parsley, cilantro, rosemary and fennel may be used fresh or dried to add zest.
Here are some tips to keep herbs fresh and flavorful for the longest possible time:
- Store fresh herbs unwashed in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
- Herbs whose leaves wilt or brown easily may be stored in a glass of water with the stems in water and a plastic bag loosely covering the leaves.
- Wash hands in soapy water and fresh herbs thoroughly in cold water before using them. This helps minimize bacterial contamination.
- Heat and light can destroy the flavor in dried herbs. Store dried herbs in airtight containers away from heat and light, in pantry shelves.
Here is the recipe of stuffed minty bell peppers.
Recipe: Stuffed Minty Bell Peppers
Preparation time: 30 minutes
- 2 bell peppers, cored and halved
- ½ cup mushrooms, chopped
- 3-4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- ¼ cup mint, finely chopped
- ¼ cup cilantro finely chopped
- ½ cup cooked rice
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
1. Preheat oven at 400°F.
2. Heat the oil in a pan. Add the garlic and mushrooms, and sauté for 5 minutes.
3. Add mint, cilantro, lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.
4. Cook rice according to directions and blend with the sautéed mixture.
5. Take the pan off heat and stuff the rice mixture into the peppers.
6. Bake in oven for 20 minutes until peppers are soft and browned on the edges.
7. Serve warm as is or with a dollop of Greek yogurt.