A couple of months ago, I got a email from a reader named Donald Meissner. Donald is the Community Outreach Coordinator at the Harvey Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry in St. Louis, Missouri. He had an intriguing request– the pantry needed help developing some affordable, easy, meat-free recipes for their clients.
One of the troubling aspects of our business is that some clients don’t really know how to cook. Recently, I suggested that we take rice and beans more seriously… educate people how to make various dishes with rice and beans, which constitutes a complete protein. Add a vegetable, and you are done.
This challenge was right up my alley! I eat a combination of rice, beans, and vegetables for lunch almost every day. I only eat meat occasionally, when my body craves it (which is seldom). At lunchtime, I prefer to eat a healthy, low calorie vegetarian meal– I find it energizing and exactly what I need to get me through the day. So when Donald emailed me his request, I knew I could help.
Before I started working on a recipe, I read up on the organization. It’s quite a place! Established in 1991, The Harvey Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry serves clients of all faiths and backgrounds living in the Greater St. Louis area. Here are a few facts that Donald emailed me…
– In 2010 the pantry helped to feed clients from over 89 different zip codes throughout St. Louis City and County.
– 5,021 families visited the food pantry in 2010, comprising 13,816 individuals. 1,273 new families became clients of the pantry in 2010.
– Over 1,214,703 food and personal care items were distributed in 2010.
– The pantry made 8,661 deliveries in 2010 to homebound older adults and the frail elderly.
– No one is ever turned away.
Here is a video of Donald doing outreach for the pantry with local preschool students:
For more information on the pantry and to learn how you can help, visit their website: The Harvey Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry.
After learning about the good work that the pantry does, I wanted this recipe to be extra special. I used simple, affordable ingredients that are widely available at any grocery store. I made sure that it’s a quick-cooking dish that can go from stove to table in 30 minutes or less, and I kept the cooking steps short and easy. The flavorful, fresh ingredients combine to create a delicious one-skillet meal that can feed a family of six for less than $15. It’s a complete entree with protein, healthy carbs, fiber, and vitamins– a terrific option for Meatless Mondays. I think some of you carnivores out there might actually enjoy this one. I’m putting it into my regular rotation!
This recipe is vegan (if you don’t top it with cheddar cheese), gluten free, all natural, low in fat, low in calories, and pareve. It also happens to be really tasty! Use quinoa instead of rice if you prefer. This is clean eating, the kind you can feel great about. Enjoy!
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Garden Vegetable Medley
- 2 tbsp olive oil or vegetable oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 lb zucchini (about 3 medium zucchini), cut into chunks
- 14 oz diced tomatoes (or 3 fresh tomatoes, diced) (1 can)
- 28 oz beans, drained and rinsed (black, kidney, navy and cannelini work well) (2 cans)
- 1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Cayenne pepper or hot sauce, to taste (optional, adds spice)
- 3 cups steamed brown or white rice (about 1 1/2 cups uncooked)
- Shredded cheddar cheese for topping (optional - omit for vegan)
- Heat olive or vegetable oil in the saute pan over medium. Saute the chopped onion for 7-8 minutes till it softens. Add the garlic and saute for 2 minutes more, until fragrant.
- Add the zucchini and continue to saute for about 5 more minutes till zucchini starts to soften.
- Add the tomatoes and beans to the pan, stir to combine. Let the mixture simmer for about 10 minutes longer, stirring occasionally, till the zucchini is cooked and the medley is heated through.
- Stir in the chopped cilantro. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add cayenne or hot sauce to taste, if desired (optional). Cayenne is extremely spicy, add with care.
- Serve vegetable medley over hot steamed rice. Top with shredded cheddar cheese or garnish with additional chopped cilantro, if desired. The rice and the beans combine to create a complete protein, making this a healthy vegetarian entree.