I’ve been making collard burritos for some time now. They have never made it to my blog. Maybe it’s because I think of them as my go-to quick meal that I eat when I don’t have time to play around with making things pretty. They are usually filled with a hodgepodge of quinoa, beans, and some random veggies. Nothing fancy. Maybe it’s because if I’m eating a collard burrito it means it is late and I don’t have daylight to photograph my creation for the blog. Winters are hard for food bloggers. There are nights that I prep my dish the night before, then race home, fly into the kitchen, and make a mess of everything, just so I can get the last ten minutes of daylight to capture my creation.
Welcome to a very special Monday! Today 200 food bloggers will dedicate their posts to raising awareness about hunger. I am so happy to be participating in this great cause. In addition to providing some information about hunger and links for more information, we will all post budget friendly recipes on our blogs today.
Hunger is a close personal issue to me. My family was very low income and had to scrape to get by many weeks. We had a very large vegetable garden that helped a great deal (and 5 kids to provide all the labor!). If we ran out of groceries before the next paycheck came, we would eat big bowls of popcorn for dinner. Us kids didn’t care–popcorn nights were the best! But as an adult, I can now see and understand the worry my mom and stepdad faced week to week, paycheck to paycheck. I still remember the embarrassment on my moms face when I blurted out that we sold our horses so we could buy winter boots. My mom had to be pretty savvy about cooking on a limited budget. One of her go-to recipes was lentil sloppy joes. With this recipe, you can feed a family of four for less than $1.50 per person (this amount figures in pantry staples as well as fresh ingredients)! Not only is it budget-friendly, this recipe is very healthy to boot and is comprised primarily of pantry staples.
I call attention to the amount spent per person for the lentil sloppy joe recipe because this figure is very important to many families, especially those who participate in SNAP, the nation’s food stamp program. The Giving Table (organizer of the Food Bloggers Against Hunger) states that SNAP recipients are limited to an average of $3-$4 per person each day to supplement their food budget. Additionally, the government subsidizes products like soy beans, wheat, and corn instead of fresh produce, so the most affordable food is often the unhealthiest. Furthermore, 1 in 4 families are skipping healthy food purchases often or always due to price (click here for more info). Overall, more than 50 million Americans face food insecurity. In a nation of such abundance, this sad fact is difficult to believe and even more difficult to ignore.
The issue of hunger among children is especially heartwrenching. Children who do not get the proper nutrition are not as healthy as other children (see here) and have lower academic performance. When you are thinking about how hungry you are, it is difficult to focus on school work. Much has been done in schools to ease this issue. Free lunches are provided to children who qualify based on income. Our family received free school lunches, which we took advantage of several days a week. Despite measures being taken to provide school lunches to all children in need, this does not address the issue of children showing up to school hungry or going home to a house with limited food. 3 out of 5 teachers say they have children in their classrooms who regularly come to school hungry (from the Hunger In Our Schools Study). Many teachers bring food to school to help children who arrive hungry to school in order to help them concentrate through the morning. If you want to help protect funding for federal nutrition programs, click here.
Fresh foods are often more expensive than processed foods, preventing some families from buying fresh produce. Organic produce is even more expensive. I have hope that this issue can be eased. In fact, in Grand Rapids, MI, where I live, I’ve seen progress toward this issue. The Fulton Street Farmer’s Market is one place of progressive change. They offer the Double Up Food Bucks program. When a person eligible for SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) uses his or her SNAP Bridge Card to shop for food at a farmers’ market, the amount of money that he or she spends is matched with Double Up Food Bucks bonus tokens. The tokens can then be exchanged for Michigan-grown fruits and vegetables. For more information on this wonderful program, click here.
Shoppers who do not have a farmer’s market or a program like Double Up Food Bucks, can still take advantage of lower-cost produce. With some tasty recipes, a home cook can transform inexpensive produce and pantry staples into fabulous meals. There are several budget-friendly dishes that you can find on my blog; several can be made for $4! For example, for just $4, a family can dig into this silky, gingery cabbage dish. For just $4, you can also make these lentil-rice stuffed collard greens. This red lentil dal is another quick and inexpensive recipe, relying primarily on pantry ingredients. Finally, my favorite! Polenta is a cheap, filling, and healthy meal base. Serve with oven roasted vegetables and you have an inexpensive, healthy, and filling meal. Click here for my polenta with roasted vegetables en papillote recipe.
So what can you do?
- Please join the No Kid Hungry campaign in standing up for kids in need. Urge your members of Congress to protect federal nutrition programs that feed our nation’s hungry kids. Just click here to get started. It only takes a minute at most.
- Head over to the No Kid Hungry website to donate or to find local and national organizations in your area. These organizations are always looking for helping hands.
- Watch A Place At The Table to understand more about our nations food crisis.
- Try to live off of $4 for one day to put yourself in the shoes of a food insecure person.
- Make the lentil sloppy joe recipe below! I think it is way better than “real” sloppy joes. I promise–you won’t miss the meat.
Lentil “Sloppy Joes”
- 1 cup lentils, rinsed
- 2 cups water
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1/2 bell pepper, chopped
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 15 oz can diced tomatoes
- 4 oz tomato paste
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/3 cup ketchup
- 1 tablespoon mustard powder
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 3 tablespoons molasses
- 1 tablespoon vinegar (white or apple cider is best)
- Salt and ground black pepper to taste
- 4 hamburger buns, split (preferably whole wheat)
- Put lentils and water in a small pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, until tender. This will take about 30 minutes.
- While lentils are cooking, heat olive oil in a large skilled over medium heat. When hot, add onions and green pepper and cook until the onions have softened somewhat, about 4 minutes. Add tomatoes, garlic, tomato paste, ketchup, mustard powder, chili powder, molasses, and vinegar. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Turn heat to lowest setting and simmer 10 minutes until thickened.
- Stir cooked lentils into sauce mixture. Serve on toasted buns. This recipe is vegan as-is but you can add a slice of cheese to the top of the mixture on the bun and melt it under the broiler if you are not vegan.
- Serves 4.
March 11. Daylight savings time has passed. Another cold and dreary day in Grand Rapids but despite the weather, I have hope! Hope that spring will be here soon. Hope that if I keep putting one foot in front of the other I will trudge to happy destiny. On days like today, I love being able to turn my attention to cooking. Cooking is the ultimate form of creativity for me. It calms my mind and turns a bright light on inside of me. I get so excited to see how things will turn out but the process is, in an of itself, often enough for me.
Today happened to be Food Matters Project Monday. Evi and Sam from Fifth Floor Kitchen chose the recipe for us this week…brown rice and lamb burgers with spinach. As you know, I’m not a huge fan of cooking with meat so I opted to make lentil and brown rice burgers with lots of veggies. I already had a pot of lentils cooked up for who-knows-what-I-would-want-to-do-with-them. I always have a use for lentils and have a deep fondness for them. I also happened to have cooked brown rice on hand, having cooked it for quick weekend meals. Score!
Next came the bit where I decided how I wanted to flavor these bad boys. I sautéed diced onions, celery, mushrooms, scallions, garlic, a couple of leaves of shredded collard greens, and some fresh parsley with some olive oil and salt. When they were cooked up I tossed in a handful of sunflower seeds for crunch.
Next, I blended some lentils with some rice and two eggs in my Breville blender (you may need to use a food processor if you don’t have a heavy-duty blender). After that, I mixed the lentil-rice-egg mixture with the vegetables, stirred in some miso paste for flavor and some brown rice flour for texture and holding power. The result was a flavorful, healthy patty with just the right texture and really nice umami flavors.
This recipe made about 15 small patties (I’m trying to remember how many I ate and how many I started with….hmmmm). I made them small because my buns were small but you can make these any size you want. I experimented with baking vs. pan-cooking and I found that cooking these in the pan were easier because they stuck to the baking sheet for me a little bit. Next time, if I chose to bake them, I would use my silicone baking liner and that method would work out just fine.
These measurements are not exact…and you can add the seasonings you want if you don’t have some of the things I added. No biggie. Just make sure you can form these into patties and that they hold together and you are good to go!
I served mine on a wheat bun with sliced avocado, thinly sliced onion, swiss cheese, and homemade sriracha mayo. I cannot WAIT to post about the sriracha. I am highly recommending you all try to make it at home–it’s easy and delicious and tastes even better than the store-bought kind.
To see what the other creative takes the Food Matters Project cooks came up with, head over to the website.
Brown Rice and Lentil Burgers with Homemade Sriracha Mayo
Makes about 15 small patties
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 1/2 medium onion, diced
- 1 stalk celery, diced
- 5-6 mushrooms, diced into small bits
- 1 scallion, thinly sliced (white and green parts)
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 2 leaves of collard greens, chopped into small pieces (you can substitute any green)
- 2 Tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
- Small handful of sunflower seeds (about 1/4 cup)
- 2 cups cooked brown lentils
- 1 and ¼ cup cooked rice, divided
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 heaping Tbsp miso paste
- about 1/2 cup brown rice flour
- Heat olive oil in a pan and add all of the ingredients through parsley. Saute for about 5-7 minutes on medium heat, stirring frequently. When vegetables soften, turn off heat and add sunflower seeds. Transfer to large bowl.
- Put lentils, 1 cup rice, 2 eggs, salt, and miso paste into a blender or food processor and pulse until combined.
- Pour lentil-rice-egg mixture onto the vegetable mixture along with the remaining 1/4 cup of rice and combine thoroughly. Add flour until the mixture is thick enough to form into patties that hold their shape.
- Heat one teaspoon oil in a non-stick skillet and add patties to the pan, cooking in batches on low heat until the patties are browned lightly on the bottom, about 5-7 minutes. Flip and cook on the other side for about 5 minutes until browned. Transfer to a plate and cook the rest of the patties in batches.
- Serve on a bun with any toppings you would like! I love avocado, lettuce, onion, dijon mustard, sriracha mayo, cheeses….mmmmm….I think I might have another!