Thursday, June 25, 2020

Easy recipes using food pantry staples in honor of FOX59's Pack the Pantries

Central Indiana food pantries have seen a dramatic increase in demand over the last few months due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Even before the COVID-19 surge, the need in Indiana was great. More than 1 million Hoosiers go hungry every year, and one in six Hoosiers goes to bed hungry every night. 

Each year, FOX59 teams up with Gleaners and Midwest Food Bank to help fight hunger by raising money. Find more information on how to donate here.

In honor of the Pack the Pantries fundraising event, I’m sharing two easy recipes using food pantry staples. 

I spoke with representatives from Midwest Food Bank Indiana and Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana to determine what ingredients are readily available.

Despite the coronavirus pandemic, John Whitaker with Midwest Food Bank Indiana says they have maintained a very good supply of nutritional food at their pantries, especially thanks to USDA food boxes. They are packed with a variety of fresh fruits, dairy products, and meat.

He said one ingredient they have a LOT of but clients aren’t sure what to do with is veggie burgers. That served as the inspiration for my vegetarian burger macaroni and cheese.

I wanted to show veggie burgers aren’t just for sandwiches. They’re packed with protein and very easy to prepare. The recipe is comparable to Hamburger Helper, but instead of using ground beef, I used crumbled up veggie burger patties.

I also added diced tomatoes and tomato sauce to the dish—two ingredients that Gleaners Nutrition Manager Sarah Wilson, RDN, says clients frequently seek recipes for.

Wilson said cabbage is another ingredient clients receive but need inspiration for. So for my second recipe, I decided to make a spicy cabbage slaw to go on top of tacos.

You can obviously make any kind of tacos you want (you could use crumbled veggie burger patties here, too!), but I decided to try something more unique and make potato tacos.

You may be thinking, "Why potatoes?" Well, first, I think it's important to remember that meat on the dinner table isn't an expectation for many Hoosiers who experience food insecurity—it's a treat. Maybe meat isn't in the budget this week, or maybe, like what we just experienced during the pandemic, it's unavailable at the grocery store.

So then what? Since both potatoes and cabbage have long shelf lives, you can keep the ingredients on hand to use when you’re out of other options.

It’s also a good thing that we're using raw cabbage in this recipe because heat breaks down the chemicals that give cabbage many of its nutritional superpowers.

Vegetarian burger macaroni and cheese
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 12 to 16 ounces vegetable burger patties
  • 1 Tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 cups elbow macaroni, uncooked
  • 2 (8 ounce) cans petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • Optional: Parsley
  1. Heat a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. 
  2. Sauté the onion for several minutes until it starts to soften. 
  3. Add the vegetable burger patties and break them up with spatula so they resemble ground beef crumbles.
  4. Add mustard, garlic powder, paprika, cayenne powder, salt and pepper and stir to incorporate.
  5. Stir in the milk, macaroni, diced tomatoes, and tomato sauce.
  6. Bring pot to boil then cover and reduce to simmer. Cook for about 10 minutes or until pasta is tender. Stir occasionally.
  7. After it’s done cooking, remove from heat and stir in cheddar cheese until it’s melted.
  8. You can sprinkle with parsley before serving.

Potato tacos with spicy cabbage slaw
For the spicy cabbage slaw
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 4 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon Sriracha
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 pound red or green cabbage, shredded
For the potato tacos
  • 3 pounds potatoes, cleaned and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
For the spicy cabbage slaw
  1. Combine the mayonnaise with apple cider vinegar, Sriracha, salt, and pepper.
  2. Mix with shredded cabbage and refrigerate until ready to serve.
For the potato tacos
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. Rinse the potatoes under cold water until the water runs clear to remove excess starch. Dry the potatoes as best as you can.
  3. In a large bowl, mix the potatoes with the olive oil and seasoning.
  4. Pour onto a baking sheet and spread in a single layer
  5. Roast potatoes until fork tender, about 20 minutes
  6. Remove from oven
  7. Prepare tacos by putting potatoes in tortilla and topping with spicy cabbage slaw. Add cheese and cilantro if desired.

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