More recipe kit ideas

In a previous post, I wrote about the micro food pantries that are popping up outside churches, schools and businesses in communities around the country (link HERE).

Then I added a post about stocking your local micro pantries or food pantries with the same kind of meal kits or recipe kits offered by meal delivery services such as Sunbasket, HelloFresh or Blue Apron (link HERE).

Meal kits or recipe kits are great for micro pantries and food pantries because it is often hard for people using the pantries to find all the ingredients they need to make a particular recipe.

From time to time, as I think of ideas for meal kits or recipe kits, I will share them. Here are a couple of ideas for meal kits, one for Chili 3-Way and one for Tuna Tetrazzini, using all nonperishable ingredients.

The Chili 3-Way recipe is one of my favorite go-to recipes at our own house when we’re in a hurry and need something quick. For the pantry recipe bag, I would add a second can of chili to make the recipe large enough to feed a larger family if necessary.

For the Tuna Tetrazzini, one can put a box of the Tuna Helper and a family-size packet of tuna in a gallon freezer bag, and assume the family has the milk and butter called for in the recipe already in their fridge. But one could also add powdered milk, along with olive oil to replace the butter. That way the person picking up the bag will be sure to have everything needed. (I use olive oil instead of butter myself. Healthier!)

Question for readers: Do you have any great ideas for recipe kits for food pantries or micro pantries? Please share your suggestions in the comments section below.

Recipe kits for your neighborhood micro pantry

About a month ago, I shared a post (link HERE) about the micro food pantries that are popping up outside churches, schools and businesses in communities around the country. The post included a list of nonperishable foods, cleaning supplies and personal hygiene items that people like to put in these miniature food pantries.

Here’s another idea for stocking your church’s or community’s micro pantry: Create the same kind of meal kits or recipe kits offered by meal delivery services such as Sunbasket, HelloFresh or Blue Apron.

I absolutely adore Sunbasket’s nifty little kits, which contain all the ingredients needed to prepare a recipe, thereby eliminating the need to run to the grocery store at the last minute for that one ingredient we need and don’t have in our fridge or cupboard.

So I got to thinking: Might a person using one of our community’s micro pantries appreciate finding a kit like this as well?

Of course, a major challenge when creating a recipe kit for a micro pantry is that only nonperishable ingredients can be used, which rules out ingredients like milk, eggs, fresh meats and most produce. But with a little ingenuity, it is possible to create a reasonably nutritious and tasty recipe using only nonperishables.

One of my favorite quickie meals at our house is tuna noodle casserole. All the ingredients for this super easy and filling recipe are nonperishable items, which makes it ideal for a micro pantry kit: a packet or can of tuna, a bag of egg noodles, a can of cream of mushroom soup, a can or jar of mushrooms and a container of parmesan cheese.

To make a kit, first create a label that looks something like this one, listing the items in the bag along with directions for making the recipe. (Note: When I make the tuna casserole recipe myself, I use a 5-ounce packet of tuna, 16-ounce bag of noodles, 10-ounce can of soup and 10-ounce jar of mushrooms, so you may want to purchase similar-sized containers of each of these ingredients for your kit in order to make the recipe work.)

Paste or tape the label to the outside of a paper bag. A plain sturdy gift bag with handles on it large enough to hold all the ingredients will work nicely.

Then just fill the bag with the recipe ingredients and place the kit in your church or neighborhood micro pantry next time you’re out and about.

If your church or civic organization wants to make this a group activity, some food pantries also welcome these meal/recipe kits. Or, if your community has several micro pantries scattered around town, you can make up several of the bags and deliver a few to each of the micro pantries.

At church, your youth group or community service committee could encourage congregation members to donate the ingredients. This project could also make a great service activity for other civic organizations you or your children belong to, such as Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts.

Recipe: Ostkaka

This Swedish dessert is a favorite at our house during the Christmas season, and has been passed down in my family for several generations.

The name ostkaka can be roughly translated as “cheesecake” – “ost” meaning “cheese” and “kaka” meaning “cake.” But the dessert is a bit different from American cheesecake, not quite as sweet and with a slightly different texture.

To make it, older generations of my family used curdled milk, produced by adding rennet to a mixture of warm milk and flour. They then added heavy cream, sugar and eggs to make a batter. My parents’ generation simplified the recipe, using cottage cheese in place of curdled milk, and it tastes the same (at least to me). Needless to say, the latter version is much easier to make.

Over the years, my mother and I developed a few additional recipe adjustments to accommodate diabetes and other dietary restrictions. I use fat-free cottage cheese, substitute egg beaters for the eggs, substitute half and half or even whole lactose-free milk for the heavy cream, and replace sugar with an equivalent amount of sugar substitute. Rice flour can be used to make the recipe gluten free. The result is still delicious.

Our family likes to serve the ostkaka with lingonberries, but if these prove hard to find, strawberry jam or sliced strawberries can also be used.

Ingredients

  • 4 eggs or 1/2 cup egg beaters
  • 3 cups fat-free cottage cheese
  • 2 cups half & half or whole milk
  • 1/3 cup regular or rice flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract
  • Sweetener equivalent to 1/2 cup sugar
  • Lingonberries, strawberry jam or sliced strawberries

Directions

Blend together the eggs, sweetener, cream or milk, flour and extract until smooth.

Stir in the cottage cheese until well-blended and pour the mixture into a cake pan.

Bake in a 350-degree oven for an hour, or until it rises a bit and is slightly brown on top.

Allow the dessert to cool at least four hours or overnight in the refrigerator.

Top each individual serving with about a tablespoon of lingonberries, strawberry jam or sliced strawberries.

Nutrition information

My version, made with egg beaters, whole milk and sugar substitute, topped with a tablespoon of lingonberries.

Serving size: 3/4 cup | Calories: 120 | Carbohydrates: 14 g | Protein: 10 g | Fat: 2 g | Saturated Fat: 1 g | Cholesterol: 13 mg | Sodium: 300 mg | Potassium: 240 mg | Fiber: 1 g | Sugar: 9 g | Vitamin A: 9% | Vitamin C: 0% | Calcium: 17% | Iron: 1%

Recipe: Cheesy veggie casserole

This casserole meets a couple of my criteria for an ideal recipe: It’s not only tasty, but super easy to make. Throw together frozen vegetables, a can of soup and pre-made topping and pop in the oven.

I use the Birds Eye Oven Roasters vegetables because they are pre-seasoned and thoroughly delicious, the Campbell’s Healthy Request cheese soup because it has half the fat and sodium content of regular cheese soup, and the smallest possible can of French-fried onions so the calorie count doesn’t create too many shock waves.

The recipe makes approximately 6 servings. Leftovers will last in the fridge for up to 4 days or can be frozen for up to 3 months.

Ingredients

  • 15-ounce bag Oven Roasters seasoned brussels sprouts and carrots
  • 14-ounce bag Oven Roasters seasoned broccoli and cauliflower
  • 10-ounce can Campbell’s Healthy Request cheddar cheese soup
  • 2.8-ounce can French fried onions

Directions

Thaw frozen vegetables in the microwave by heating the brussels sprouts and carrots on HIGH for 4 minutes, then adding the broccoli and cauliflower and heating on HIGH for another 4 minutes.

Add cheese soup and stir until all vegetables are thoroughly coated.

Pour into baking dish and bake in 375-degree oven for 25-30 minutes, or until vegetables are of desired softness when tested with a fork. (For slightly al dente vegetables, bake for the shorter period of time.)

Top with French fried onions and bake for an additional 5 minutes, or until onions are golden brown.

Nutrition Information

Serving size: 3/4 cup | Calories: 210 | Carbohydrates: 18 g | Protein: 5 g | Fat: 12 g | Saturated Fat: 2 g | Cholesterol: 0 mg | Sodium: 750 mg | Potassium: 550 mg | Fiber: 4 g | Sugar: 4 g | Vitamin A: 18% | Vitamin C: 0% | Calcium: 2% | Iron: 2% 

Recipe: Chicken salad

This classic comfort food is perfect for either a picnic lunch or a quick-but-healthy meal at home. It’s also a great use for leftover chicken.

I use reduced-fat mayonnaise to cut calories and fat content, and add Dijon mustard and lemon juice for a burst of extra flavor. Celery, green onions and almonds add both crunch and fiber.

I may pile a generous portion of the chicken salad onto whole grain bread or a whole grain bun for a delicious sandwich. Or I may enjoy a scoop with salad greens.

Leftovers can be frozen for up to two months or will keep in the refrigerator for up to four days.

This recipe makes four 3/4-cup servings.

Ingredients

  • 2 cooked boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 3/4 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 2 green onions
  • 1/4 cup unsalted sliced almonds
  • Ground black pepper to taste

Directions

Dice or shred the chicken, dice the celery and thinly slice the green onions. Combine, add almonds and stir until well blended.

In a small dish, combine the mayonnaise, mustard, lemon juice and black pepper and stir until well blended before adding to the chicken mixture and blending well.

If you wish, chill in the refrigerator for an hour or so before serving.

Nutrition information

Serving size: 3/4 cup | Calories: 240 | Carbohydrates: 9 g | Protein: 17 g | Fat: 14 g | Saturated Fat: .5 g | Cholesterol: 45 mg | Sodium: 350 mg | Potassium: 230 mg | Fiber: 2 g | Sugar: 0 g | Vitamin A: 4% | Vitamin C: 6% | Calcium: 2% | Iron: 4% 

Recipe: Garbanzo beef

For those seeking ways to cut back on pasta consumption, this recipe offers a variation on the ever-popular beefy mac. Add a green salad for a deliciously filling meal.

I’ve substituted garbanzo beans for the noodles to cut down on processed carbs and add fiber. To increase the vegetable-to-meat proportions, I’ve also doubled the amounts of mushrooms, garbanzos and tomatoes and used an extra-large pepper and onion. 

If you’re looking to cut the amount of red meat in your diet, and the saturated fat and cholesterol that come with it, feel free to use ground turkey instead of ground beef. Or, if you want to go vegan, use your favorite plant-based “beef” crumbles. I’ve used the Boca veggie crumbles and found they work very well.

As usual, I use reduced-sodium versions of products whenever available, and do not add salt to this recipe, but include enough spices that I really don’t miss the salt.

Garbanzo beef freezes well, and so lends itself to batch cooking.

This recipe makes approximately 8 servings.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound lean ground beef, ground turkey or plant-based “beef” crumbles
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 large green pepper, chopped
  • 2 10-ounce jars sliced mushrooms
  • 1 28-ounce can reduced-sodium diced tomatoes
  • 2 16-ounce cans reduced-sodium garbanzo beans
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon low sodium Worcestershire sauce

Directions

Sauté the onion, green pepper and mushrooms in olive oil until tender and caramelized. Set aside.

Brown the ground beef or turkey and drain excess fat. Or, if using veggie crumbles, brown according to package directions.  

Combine the ground meat/veggie crumbles and spices with the onion, green pepper and mushroom mixture, stirring until well blended.

Add the tomatoes (with their juice) and drained garbanzo beans and simmer on medium heat for about 15 minutes or until the liquid is gone.

Nutrition information

Made with ground beef

Serving size: 1¼ cups | Calories: 260 | Carbohydrates: 10 g | Protein: 11 g | Fat: 19 g | Saturated Fat: 9 g | Cholesterol: 83 mg | Sodium: 184 mg | Potassium: 284 mg | Fiber: 3 g | Sugar: 2.5 g | Vitamin A: 1% | Vitamin C: 21% | Calcium: 5% | Iron: 6% 

Made with ground turkey

Serving size: 1¼ cups | Calories: 152 | Carbohydrates: 10 g | Protein: 13 g | Fat: 7 g | Saturated Fat: 1.5 g | Cholesterol: 40 mg | Sodium: 175 mg | Potassium: 284 mg | Fiber: 3 g | Sugar: 2.5 g | Vitamin A: 1.5% | Vitamin C: 21% | Calcium: 5% | Iron: 4% 

Made with veggie crumbles

Serving size: 1¼ cups | Calories: 120 | Carbohydrates: 14 g | Protein: 11 g | Fat: 2 g | Saturated Fat: .5 g | Cholesterol: 0 mg | Sodium: 287 mg | Potassium: 355 mg | Fiber: 6 g | Sugar: 2.5 g | Vitamin A: 0% | Vitamin C: 21% | Calcium: 7% | Iron: 6% 

Recipe: Lemony dill salmon

I am always, always, always looking for delicious ways to add fish to our diet, and this recipe definitely meets the “yum” test.

Better yet, both salmon and olive oil contain omega-3 fatty acids – the good kind of fat known to lower the risk of heart disease.

Plus, the recipe meets another test – it’s super easy to prepare.

The recipe also lends itself to batch cooking. It can keep in the refrigerator for up to three days and I just pop the leftovers in the microwave for 2-3 minutes.

This recipe makes 4 servings.

Ingredients

  • 4 salmon filets
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon dried dill weed
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • fresh ground pepper to taste

Instructions

Whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, dill weed and garlic until well-blended.

Dip salmon filets in the mixture to coat thoroughly and place in a 9 X 9-inch baking dish.

Pour the remaining mixture over the top of the filets.

Bake in a 375-degree oven for 20-25 minutes, or until the fish flakes easily, basting filets with the liquid once or twice while baking.

Nutrition information

Serving size: 4-ounce filet | Calories: 300 | Carbohydrates: 0 g | Protein: 20 g | Fat: 27 g | Saturated Fat: 5 g | Cholesterol: 55 mg | Sodium: 60 mg | Potassium: 360 mg | Fiber: 0 g | Sugar: 0 g | Vitamin A: 1% | Vitamin C: 6% | Calcium: 0% | Iron: 1%

Recipe: Kale salad with walnuts and cranberries

Who says salads have to be boring? This one is as chock full of deliciousness as it is full of nutrients. 

The kale is rich in Vitamin C, while the cranberries add fiber and the walnuts and blue cheese crumbles contribute protein. As with all my recipes, I use products and ingredients that reduce the amount of sugar, salt and fat content.

This recipe makes a 1½-cup serving or two ¾-cup servings. Use the smaller serving as a side dish or the larger serving as a light lunch by itself.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup chopped baby kale
  • 2 tablespoons chopped unsalted walnuts
  • 2 tablespoons reduced-sugar dried cranberries
  • 2 tablespoons reduced-fat blue cheese dressing
  • 2 tablespoons reduced-fat blue cheese crumbles (optional)

Directions

Remove large stems from the kale, rinse thoroughly and chop into bite-size pieces.

Add walnuts, cranberries and dressing to the kale in a medium-size mixing bowl, and toss until everything is thoroughly covered with the dressing.

Pour into a salad bowl (for the main dish) or divide evenly into two smaller bowls (for the side dish) and sprinkle with the blue cheese crumbles.

Nutrition information

Serving size: ¾ cup | Calories: 112 | Carbohydrates: 13 g | Protein: 5 g | Fat: 6 g | Saturated Fat: 1.5 g | Cholesterol: 6 mg | Sodium: 160 mg | Potassium: 205 mg | Fiber: 4 g | Sugar: 5.5 g | Vitamin A: 65% | Vitamin C: 65% | Calcium: 10% | Iron: 3% 

Serving size: 1½ cups | Calories: 225 | Carbohydrates: 26 g | Protein: 10 g | Fat: 12 g | Saturated Fat: 3 g | Cholesterol: 12 mg | Sodium: 320 mg | Potassium: 410 mg | Fiber: 8 g | Sugar: 11 g | Vitamin A: 130% | Vitamin C: 130% | Calcium: 20% | Iron: 6% 

Recipe: Hoppin’ John

For several years now, Pete and I have enjoyed a New Year’s Day tradition of inviting friends to our house for hoppin’ john, greens and cornbread.

Hoppin’ john is a traditional southern dish made with black-eyed peas and rice, and is said to bring good luck if eaten on New Year’s Day. My husband, who grew up in East Tennessee, brought the recipe with him when he moved to Illinois. 

As usual, I’ve modified the recipe somewhat to meet my dietary restrictions. For my version of hoppin’ john, I use brown rice – the frozen kind for convenience. I’ve actually come to prefer brown rice for its nutty texture. Plus, it has more healthy fiber than the more heavily processed white rice. I cook the bacon separately and drain off the grease before adding it to the recipe, which allows me to add some delicious bacon flavor without so much saturated fat, and I sauté the onion and pepper separately in olive oil. I use Tony Chachere’s no-salt seasoning blend in place of salt. Low sodium chicken broth adds flavor.

We serve the dish with greens and cornbread, which are said to further ensure prosperity for the coming year. For the cornbread, I use Martha White self-rising buttermilk corn meal mix, and follow the recipe on the back of the package. This brand of corn meal mix does NOT have added sugar, which not only makes it better for my diabetic diet, but also more authentically southern.

Most years, our friends bring their own favorite dishes, along with their musical instruments, making for a great potluck feast and jam session. What better way to start the New Year off right?

Unfortunately, this year we’ll be celebrating with just the two of us because of the pandemic. But our friends will be with us in spirit, and the leftover hoppin’ john freezes very well.

This recipe makes about eight one-cup servings.

Ingredients

  • 2 10-ounce packages frozen whole grain brown rice
  • 1 12-ounce package frozen black-eyed peas
  • 3 slices bacon, crumbled
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon Tony Cachere’s no-salt seasoning blend
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 32-ounce carton low-sodium chicken broth

Directions

Combine black-eyed peas and chicken broth in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Thaw the brown rice in the refrigerator overnight, or heat in the microwave oven following package directions.

Cook the bacon on a plate lined and covered with paper towels in the microwave oven for 3-4 minutes, or until crisp, and crumble the bacon.

Sauté the onion and pepper in olive oil until tender and caramelized, and sprinkle in the no-salt seasoning, red pepper and black pepper.

Combine rice, black-eyed peas (with broth), bacon and sautéed vegetables. Add one cup water and stir until thoroughly mixed.

Pour into baking dish and cover with aluminum foil. Bake in 425-degree oven for 25-30 minutes, or until all liquid has been absorbed by the rice. Stir again and serve hot.

Nutritional Information

Serving size: 1 cup | Calories: 240 | Carbohydrates: 38 g | Protein: 8 g | Fat: 6 g | Saturated Fat: 1 g | Cholesterol: 3 mg | Sodium: 125 mg | Potassium: 305 mg | Fiber: 4 g | Sugar: 1 g | Vitamin A: 1% | Vitamin C: 20% | Calcium: 1.5% | Iron: 6% 

Recipe: Fruktsoppa

Fruktsoppa, a fruit soup using dried fruit, is a traditional dessert in Sweden and Norway. 

When I was growing up, this dish was a staple at extended-family gatherings during the holidays. But fruktsoppa is so tasty, why reserve it only for Christmas? 

The soup may be served as a side dish at breakfast or as a dessert at other meals. What a delicious way to help meet our goal of 3-5 servings of fruits or vegetables per day!

The original recipe calls for added sugar, but I totally leave it out. Because the fruit itself is naturally sweet enough, who needs the added carbs and calories?

The soup can be frozen up to three months, which makes it great for batch cooking.

This recipe makes approximately 10 half-cup servings.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dried apricots
  • 1 cup dried prunes
  • 2 apples, sliced
  • 1/2 cup dried currants or raisins
  • 1-2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca
  • 6 cups water

Directions

Soak apricots in the water for at least a half hour. 

Add the apple slices, cinnamon sticks, tapioca and lemon juice and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and allow to simmer for about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep fruit from sticking to the bottom of the pan.

Add prunes and currants and continue to simmer until all fruit is tender.

Serve hot or cold, depending on your preference.

Nutrition information

Calories: 115 | Carbohydrates: 30 g | Protein: 1 g | Fat: .3 g | Saturated Fat: 0 g | Cholesterol: 0 mg | Sodium: 7 mg | Potassium: 383 mg | Fiber: 3.5 g | Sugar: 22 g | Vitamin A: 12% | Vitamin C: 4% | Calcium: 2% | Iron: 4%