A Call for Helping One-Pot-Dish Hands
An e-mail from "Newton Mom," the Newton, Mass.-based sister of longtime reader "Bethesda Mom," arrived in my inbox last week, and I've been thinking about it ever since. Here's her kitchen scenario:
A friend has organized a very large effort at my daughter's now former elementary school where once a month families make a tuna noodle casserole, using the identical recipe, and then she delivers them to a woman and children's homeless shelter in Boston called Rosies Place where they are served for dinner to the community.
We have all been making these for some years. Apparently, it has been so successful that we have "graduated" to a different night of the month and are now free to change the menu and recipe.
The new recipe does not need to be a casserole, must be able to be standardized, frozen and reheated and be easy enough that people will be willing to make the time and effort to put it together. Cost is somewhat less of an issue, I think. I was thinking of something with chicken, but wondered whether you might have any thoughts.
The previous recipe called for one pound of macaroni mixed with two cans of tuna, one stick of melted butter and 12 ounces of shredded cheese cooked briefly. We would like to make something healthier, but keeping it easy enough so that a kindergartener could help and a sixth grader could make independently.
First of all, Newton Mom gets the big high-five for being part of such a noble effort. Her dedication to feeding others in need is inspiring and cause for applause.
A few thoughts immediately come to mind: First of all, I'm happy you can graduate from the tuna casserole not only because of all that butter and cheese, but because canned tuna, particularly albacore, is high in mercury.
If it's chicken you're considering, bear in mind that even a skilled and independent sixth grader will need the supervision of an adult. That said, I'm thinking chicken enchiladas, made with a salsa verde (don't worry; you can use jarred tomatillos) and corn tortillas, would be a nice change and could easily be reheated.
Since you've already tried your hand at pasta casseroles, what about a rice dish? What if you stewed a whole cut-up chicken and laid it over a bed of rice in a baking dish and topped it with feta? There's a tempting-sounding recipe for Greek-braised chicken with onions, olives and feta (among other grand ideas) in Marsha Rose Shulman's "Ready When You Are," a terrific book with a one-pot focus. You could leave out the olives and use the feta on top so that it melts when baking.
I also like the sound of her baked lentils and red cabbage, which could easily be added to rice for a complete protein, and I'm digging the idea of her Indian-style rice pilaf with cauliflower, which could easily be bulked up with chicken.
Shulman's black bean stew with greens could easily be tweaked with canned black beans; the greens would reflect the season -- chard, kale, turnip greens, spinach -- and corn tortillas would line the baking dish.
Although none of these ideas is as elementary as assembling tuna-ed noodles into a baking dish, they will satisfy Mom's interest in a more wholesome and nutritious meal.
So Mom, let me know if any of these appeal, and I'll get busy in the kitchen. Meanwhile, I'll open up the floor for one-pot tips, tricks and tried-and-true recipes. Let's help Newton Mom help the homeless moms of Boston!
Today's Eco-Bite: What's it like to eat a diet of foods grown and raised within 150 miles of your home? Follow the experiences of 15 people from around the country who are eating a diet that is 80 percent local for an entire year on Locavore Nation, a blogging project of Lynn Rossetto Kasper's public radio program, The Splendid Table.
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