Friday, December 30, 2011

Broccoli Soup

Photo source
Broccoli soup is a hearty, cold-weather soup that is very adaptable to what you have on hand in the kitchen or wish to use. The ingredients listed below are just the basics and lend themselves to any combination of quantity, seasonings and additions. I, for one, make my broccoli soup with potatoes but you certainly don't need to. And I like lots of garlic.
Serve this soup with a good sour dough french or a dense whole wheat bread.
Thanks to Julia Martinez for sharing her broccoli soup recipe and thoughts on healthy cooking.
Cleo, Food Bank volunteer


1 bunch of broccoli, stems sliced and florets chopped into smaller pieces
2 tablespoons unsalted butter or olive oil
1 medium onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, smashed
Pinch dried thyme leaves and or other herbs as desired
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more as needed
2-4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
Milk, dairy or non-dairy
Freshly ground black pepper
1 russet potato, peeled and diced
Shredded cheddar cheese


-Melt the butter or oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat.
-Add the onion and garlic and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes.
-Add the broccoli (and potato, if using), herbs of choice, salt, and enough broth to cover the vegetables and bring to a boil.
-Adjust the heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook uncovered until the broccoli is  tender but not overcooked, about 5-7 minutes.
-Puree the soup in batches in a blender or with an immersion blender.
-Return soup to the pot and add milk to the puree, keeping the consistency fairly thick.. Bring to a simmer, taste, and season with salt and pepper.
Serve with the shredded cheddar cheese as a topping.

Makes 4 to 6 servings. 

Friday, December 23, 2011

Broccoli Quesadilla Recipe.

Photo source
This recipe was adapted from a Veggie Quesadilla recipe on


·         3 Minced Cloves of Garlic
·         ½ chopped Red onion
·         2 chopped Mexican zucchini (calabazitas)
·         ½ chopped red bell pepper
·         1 cup of fresh broccoli florets
·         Olive oil
·         Cheddar cheese (shredded)
·         Whole Wheat tortillas

1.        In a big sauce pan, heat the oil and add the minced garlic, chopped red onions, and chopped red bell pepper.
2.        Cook for two minutes and then add the chopped Mexican zucchini and the broccoli florets.
3.        Cover and cook it until they are tendered.
4.        On a different heating pan, place two whole wheat tortillas and add the cheese and cooked vegetables in between the two tortillas. Flip over when the flour tortilla side is brown.
5.        Once the cheese is melted, remove from the pan and cut into four pieces and serve.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Tarragon Yam Bake

Photo source
Sweet potatoes are frequently called yams in this country but they are not the same vegetable nor are they even distantly related.  Yams are darker skinned, have a darker, golden flesh and are, oddly enough, sweeter than sweet potatoes.
This recipe is one that I have been making for a long time.  It is simple to make and you can vary the amount of each vegetable and the tarragon to suit your own tastes and how many servings are needed.
It is surprisingly delicious!
Cleo, Food Bank volunteer


1 medium yam
3-4 small red or Yukon potatoes
2 carrots
1 medium onion
1-2 tbs safflower or sunflower oil
Salt to taste


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Cut yams, potatoes and carrots into slices or cubes and quarter the onion.  Combine all the veggies in an oven-proof casserole dish with a cover.    Add the oil and the tarragon then toss veggies to cover all pieces.  Add a little water to keep the veggies moisturized.  Cover the dish and bake for 30 to 45 minutes or until the veggies are tender but not mushy.  Salt to taste before serving.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

November's Volunteer of the Month

By a unanimous vote amoung Food Bank of Yolo County (FBYC) staff, this month's featured volunteer is Misty O'Donnell. Though quiet, she has made a big impression at the FBYC. Her “can-do” attitude and friendly demeanor are a pleasure to be around.

Misty first heard about FBYC through the Work Experience Program (WEX). Through this program, individuals are matched up with local organizations to build their job skills.

Misty has been with the FBYC for about a month and a half and continues to be a great asset. She makes sure the warehouse is clean and organized, and she is taking on more responsibility by learning how to take inventory. She enjoys “being able to help the community” and says that “the staff is always so kind”.

When she is not working at FBYC, Misty enjoys spending time with her children.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Pasta with Butternut Squash, Fried Sage, and Pine Nuts

Photo source
This is a repeat of a recipe I posted last year.  I made it again this week and it is as delicious as I remembered.  It is a bit labor-intensive but well worth the effort.  One hint: I cut the squash into quarters and eighths which made peeling it a lot easier. If you don't have a pan large enough for the final steps of the recipe, you can split it in half.  The pasta should 'pan-fry', not steam.  PS: Toast the pine nuts first!
Cleo, Food Bank volunteer


1 medium butternut squash
1 small sweet onion, peeled and diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup fresh sage leaves
1 pound farfalle pasta
3/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
4 ounces high quality Parmesan, shredded or shaved (about a cup total)

Heat the oven to 375°.
Cut the butternut squash in half and scoop out the strings and seeds the middle cavity. Flip the squash halves upside down and peel them. (Note: The raw squash rind can irritate your hands. If they start to itch or tingle, wear gloves.) Cut the squash into 1-inch cubes.
Toss with the onion, garlic, a drizzle of olive oil and salt and pepper. Mince about half of the fresh sage leaves and also toss with the squash.
Spread the squash mixture in a thin layer on a large baking sheet and roast for about 40 minutes or until the squash is soft.
Heat salted pasta water to boiling and cook the farfalle until al dente. Drain and set aside.
As the squash finishes roasting, heat about two tablespoons of olive oil in a large high-sided sauté pan. The oil is ready when it pops and sputters. (Don't let it start smoking.) Drop in the rest of the sage leaves and fry for about a minute, or until they begin to just shrivel up.
Remove with a slotted spoon and salt lightly. Crush with the back of a spoon.
Add half the pasta to the pan, along with half the roasted squash mixture. Crumble in half the sage. Cook, stirring frequently, for five minutes or until the pasta is heated through and getting crispy on some of the edges. Add the pine nuts and cook for another minute. Stir in half the cheese and serve.

Serves 4

Recipe source

Friday, October 7, 2011

Pizza with butternut squash

Photo source
I would never have thought to make pizza with butternut squash but this sounds delicious.  You can make your own pizza dough or buy it fresh or frozen at the supermarket.  Pesto is also generally available at stores, or, again, make your own.  Mozzarella would be a good substitute for the fontina or Gouda cheese and, if you use the part-skim milk variety, would bring down the fat content of the pizza. And, of course, dispense with the sugar if you want.

Cleo, Food Bank volunteer




  • 6 (1/4-inch-thick) slices peeled butternut squash (about 1/2 pound)
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon olive oil
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded fontina or Gouda cheese
  • Pizza dough
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can finely chopped tomatoes, drained
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 cup pesto
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated fresh Romano or Parmesan cheese


  • Preheat oven to 400°.
  • Combine first 3 ingredients in a medium bowl. Place squash mixture on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Bake at 400° for 20 minutes or until squash is tender.
  • Increase oven temperature to 450°.
  • Sprinkle fontina over dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border; top with squash mixture, tomatoes, and oregano. Drop pesto by level teaspoons onto mixture; sprinkle with Romano. Bake at 450° for 20 minutes or until lightly browned.
  • Totals include Pizza Dough
Recipe source

Friday, September 30, 2011

Fettuccini with Sweet Peppers & Pinenuts

Photo source
There must be one pepper recipe that includes pasta.  This one sounds quick to make and only two pans--one for the pasta and one for the peppers.  Of course, if you don't have Kalamata olives or capers, you can leave them out or substitute regular black or green olives for the Kalamata. Both tend to be a bit pricey. 


Cleo. Food Bank volunteer


1 (16-ounce) package uncooked fettuccini pasta
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4  large cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1 large sweet yellow bell pepper, cored, seeded and julienned
1 large sweet red bell pepper, cored, seeded and julienned
1 large sweet orange bell pepper, cored, seeded and julienned
1/2 cup pine nuts
1/2 cup fresh parsley or
basil leaves, chopped
1/2 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and halved
1/4 cup
capers, drained
1 tablespoon coarse
salt or coarse sea salt
1 tablespoon freshly-ground
black pepper or to taste


Cook pasta according to package directions: drain and return to pan to keep warm.

In a large, heavy skillet heat the olive oil. Add garlic and bell peppers (yellow, red & orange), and cook for 10 minutes, stirring continuously. Add pine nuts and cook approximately 4 minutes or until they turn golden brown. Gradually stir in basil or parsley. Add olives and capers and heat. Add salt and pepper to taste.
In a serving bowl, toss the sauce mixture with prepared pasta. 

Makes 4 to 6 servings. 

Recipe source 

Friday, September 16, 2011

Stuffed Charred Peppers

Photo source
With this recipe you can have stuffed peppers for dinner without heating up the kitchen too much.  A little cooking inside, a little cooking outside. 
Cleo, Food Bank volunteer



  • 1 tablespoon olive oil + more for serving
  • -- Kernels from 2 ears of corn (about 2 cups)
  • 2 Japanese or other small, slender eggplants, diced into 1/2-inch cubes (about 3 cups)
  • 4 medium sized tomatoes, diced (about 2 cups)
  • 1-2 bunches hearty greens (kale, collards, mustard, etc), large ribs removed, roughly chopped (about 4 cups)
  • -- Sea salt or kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
  • 6 bell peppers, any color, halved, ribs and seeds removed
  • 6 ounces feta cheese

Preheat a grill to medium-high heat.
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the corn and eggplant and cook, stirring, for about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring, for about 1 minute. Add the greens and cook until wilted, about 3-5 minutes.
Remove from heat, season with salt and pepper, and spoon into the pepper halves. Crumble feta over each stuffed pepper. Carefully place the peppers on the grill, cover grill for about 8-10 minutes, rotating occasionally to evenly char the outside of each pepper.
Remove from heat, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt and serve.

Per Serving: 102 calorie

Serves 12

Recipe source 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

September's Volunteer of the Month: Bich Mai Toups

Easily one of our most energetic volunteers, Bich Mai Toups started volunteering with the Food Bank of Yolo County (FBYC) in October of 2010 and has “enjoyed every moment”. She is a pleasure to work with and is always eager to help with duties ranging from making copies, to helping with a food distribution, to tabling at an event. Throughout the year, FBYC staff rely on Bich as our “go to” volunteer because of her positive attitude and willingness to help wherever needed.

It was Bich’s husband who introduced her to the idea of volunteering with FBYC. As a stay at home mother of three school-aged children, she found herself with time to spare during the week. Bich explained that her favorite part of volunteering with “learning about the different aspects of FBYC, such as the Moveable Market, CalFresh, and other general office duties”.

Volunteering has meant a lot to Bich. She feels great when she leaves and enjoys working with staff and other volunteers. She is grateful for the opportunity to be a part of this organization and is happy to spend some of her spare time giving back to the community.

Some of Bich’s hobbies include: swimming, lifting weights, reading health-related magazines, and spending time with her family.

Thank you for all of your hard work, Bich!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Roasted Bell Peppers

Photo source
Did you know that you can roast bell peppers yourself either in your oven, on your stove top if you have a gas stove or on a barbeque grill?  (Or, if you are really adventurous, with a propane torch, according to one comment I saw.)  Once you have successfully roasted peppers and tasted the results you will never go back to the store-bought variety--there is no comparison.  Roasting peppers is a bit labor-intensive but well worth the effort.  They can be used in salads, on sandwiches, with pasta, and you can freeze them for later use.

Directions for roasting peppers can be found on the following two links.  The first is for  roasting on a grill and the web site includes directions for roasting on a gas stove.  The second is a step-by-step with photos on roasting peppers in an oven.  Following the links is a recipe for a roasted red pepper dipping sauce that can be used with toasted bread, meatballs or fish.

Grill or gas stove roasting

Oven broiler roasting

Roasted Pepper Dipping Sauce
  • 2 large roasted red peppers
  • 1 head of roasted garlic cloves,
  • 1/2 cup of chopped tomatoes
  • 3/4 to 1 teaspoon of salt, a few turns of freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
Puree all ingredients together until smooth.

Roasted red and yellow peppers are also delicious in a sandwich, especially with prosciutto, goat cheese, and arugula on a ciabatta.

They also make a great summer vegetable salad when tossed with corn, mint, basil, red onion, lime juice and olive oil.

Recipe Source and additional use suggestions

Friday, August 19, 2011

Grilled Eggplant

Photo source
Eggplant is a great vegetable to grill, especially when it is too hot to stay in the kitchen and barbeques are fired up.  This is a very easy recipe and the results can be used in a variety of ways: as a side dish and with chicken and pasta.  Try layering the individual eggplant slices with slices of beefsteak tomato, mozzarella cheese and red onion on a grilled bun, and garnish with basil leaves.
The recommended time range for grilling 1" slices is 5 minutes per side. If overcooked they become tasteless and if under cooked, spongy.
Cleo, Food Bank volunteer

  • 1 eggplant, sliced 1″ thick
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 4 cloves of garlic, slivered
  • sea salt and pepper to taste
  1. Brush olive oil on both sides of eggplant.
  2. Stuff a couple of slivers of garlic into the eggplant.
  3. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  4. Preheat grill to medium heat.
  5. Grill (covered) until cooked through and grill marks are left on each side of the eggplant
Recipe source

Friday, August 12, 2011

Roasted Ratatouille

Photo source
Ratatouille--the hard part is how do you  pronounce it.  According to Wikipedia, ratatouille (rat-ah-TOO-ee) is a traditional vegetable stew originating in France. The easy part is making it. Besides using eggplant, this recipe calls for two other readily available summer veggies--bell peppers and zucchini.  What I like about this recipe, in addition to *roasting the vegetables, is that it makes enough to provide ingredients for two additional meals.  My kind of cooking--especially if one works and/or during the hot summer weather.  Go to the recipe source shown after the directions for the other two recipes--Summer Chicken Stew and open face sandwiches.
Cleo, Food Bank volunteer


1 medium eggplant, trimmed and cut and cut into one-inch dice
1 large sweet onion, peeled and cut into one-inch dice
1 yellow bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into one-inch dice
2 medium zucchini, trimmed and cut into one-inch dice
12 peeled garlic cloves, halved
1/4 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons dried thyme leaves
Salt and ground black pepper
2 cups (1 pint) cherry tomatoes


Combine eggplant, onion, pepper, zucchini, and garlic in a large bowl. Add olive oil, thyme, and a sprinkling of salt and pepper; toss to coat. Turn vegetables onto a large-rimmed baking sheet.
Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 425 degrees. Set baking sheet in preheating oven; roast until vegetables are golden brown on bottom, about 20 minutes. Remove pan from oven, stir in cherry tomatoes, and then continue to roast, stirring once more, until tomatoes have start to release their juices, about 15 minutes longer. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature, or continue with one of the following recipes. (Can be covered and refrigerated up to 5 days.)

* According to Three Many Cooks, the veggies hold their shape better making the dish look more attractive.

Makes about 5 cups

Recipe source

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

August's Volunteers of the Month: Melanie Goddard and Katherine Laumas

From left: Katherine, Melanie
 For the month of August, we want to give thank two awesome warehouse sorting volunteers, Melanie Goddard and Katherine Laumas. Both ladies have shown dedication to the Food Bank of Yolo County (FBYC) by coming weekly—rain or shine—to help sort food for our variety boxes, which are part of our Rural Food Delivery (RFD) Program. Without the work of exceptional volunteers like Melanie and Katherine, it would be impossible for us to distribute food to the communities and individuals that benefit from the program.

With us since August 2009, Melanie first heard about the Food Bank from her cousin, who is our former grant writer. As a retiree with extra time on her hands, she thought it sounded like a wonderful program with which to volunteer.

When asked about her favorite part of volunteering with FBYC, Melanie said, “I love meeting other volunteers, but I especially love the satisfaction of packing boxes of food and thinking of the meals that will be created...”. She also went on to say, “Volunteering is a satisfying, productive way to use my time to help others”.

Besides volunteering, Melanie’s interests include: traveling with her husband, attending Giants and Rivercats games, kayaking, reading, gardening, and enjoying wine, art, and music.

Katherine, who often works on Tuesday’s with Melanie, has been a volunteer since December of 2010. Though she is a busy student, she thought the Food Bank would be a great place to volunteer because of her passion for food and cooking.

As a volunteer, Katherine appreciates the atmosphere at FBYC, friendly staff and volunteers, and low key vibe that makes her work enjoyable. She said, “When I go home on Tuesdays, I feel like I did something meaningful. It’s a wonderful feeling. Just a little work goes a long way”.

When not volunteering or studying, Katherine enjoys doing Bikram yoga and spending time with her beagle, Emma.

A huge thank you to both Melanie and Katherine for all of your hard work!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Eggplant and Tomato Salad

Photo source
This recipe was recommended to us by Liz, one of our followers on Facebook.  It is quick and easy to make and will make a great salad to accompany anything you wish to barbeque.

Thank you for the link, Liz!  And any one else who has a favorite recipe for the veggie of the month, please feel free to share.

Cleo, Food Bank volunteer

  • 2 globe eggplants, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch slices
  • 2 beefsteak tomatoes, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch slices
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Ground black pepper
  • 1 pound fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/3-inch slices
  • 10 fresh basil leaves


  • 1. Prepare the grill for direct cooking over medium heat (350° to 450°F).
  • 2. Brush the eggplant and tomato slices with oil and season evenly with salt and pepper. Brush the cooking grates clean. Grill over direct medium heat, with the lid closed as much as possible, until the vegetables are tender and nicely marked, turning once. The eggplant will take about 8 minutes and the tomatoes will take 2 to 4 minutes. Remove from the grill as they are done.
  • 3. Divide the eggplants, tomatoes, cheese, and basil among four plates. Drizzle with a little more olive oil or your favorite salad dressing, if desired.
Recipe source

Friday, July 29, 2011

Hot & sour cucumber salad

Photo Source
This recipe got lots of raves on the website where I found it. Increase the number of cucumbers, tomatoes and shallots to make larger or more servings. Serrano chilies are a good substitute and easier to find than bird's eye chilies, which are very hot.

Cleo, Food Bank volunteer







  • 1 peeled cucumber
  • 1/2 pound cherry tomatoes
  • 2 shallots , finely sliced
  • 2 bird's-eye chillies , split open
  • rice wine or cider vinegar
  • handful coriander leaves, aka cilantro


  1. Finely slice the cucumber and halve the cherry tomatoes. Toss these with the shallots and chillies, season and dress with vinegar. Scatter coriander over. 
Prep time: 15 minutes
Serves:  6

Recipe source

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Soba Noodles with Cucumbers

Photo source
This basic recipe for soba noodle salad that features cucumbers as an ingredient. You can add other veggies to the salad:  edamame (green soy beans), thin carrot strips, peas, green onions, etc.  Garnish with cilantro.  Soba noodles can be found in the international foods section of a supermarket or you can substitute whole wheat spaghetti.   If you cannot find black sesame seeds, toast regular sesame seeds in a heavy pan until brown and top the salad with them.  Best served cold.
Cleo, Food Bank volunteer

  • 1 pound soba noodles or whole wheat spaghetti
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 4 drops hot pepper oil
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely minced fresh ginger
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1 large seedless cucumber, quartered and diced
  • Black sesame seeds


Cook the noodles in a large pot of boiling water until tender, following directions on the package. Drain well. Whisk together the soy sauce, hot pepper oil, vinegar, ginger and sesame oil and toss with the warm noodles. Add the cucumber and top with the sesame seeds. Serve at room temperature or chill and serve.
Yield: 4 servings
Recipe source

Friday, July 15, 2011

Watermelon Cucumber Gazpacho

Photo source
All the refreshing flavors of a hot summer in this variation on gazpacho and without heating up the kitchen.  This recipe is very adaptable. If you don't have or don't want to use celery, leave it out.  If you like hot, spicy foods leave a few seeds in with the jalapeno. Add a mint leaf garnish along with the crème fraîche or the sour cream.
Cleo, Food Bank volunteer


  • 1 3-pound seedless watermelon, diced (about 5 cups), divided
  • 1 small cucumber, peeled, seeded, diced (about 1 cup)
  • 1 medium-size red bell pepper, seeded, diced (about 1 cup)
  • 1 medium-size yellow bell pepper, seeded, diced (about 1 cup)
  • 1 small jalapeño chile, seeded, minced
  • 3 pale green inner celery stalks, diced (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 small red onion, diced (about 1 cup)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh mint
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup crème fraîche or sour cream
Puree 4 cups watermelon in blender until smooth. Transfer puree to large bowl. Add remaining 1 cup diced watermelon and next 10 ingredients; stir to combine. Cover gazpacho and refrigerate until cold, at least 1 hour and up to 4 hours. 
Divide gazpacho among bowls; top with dollop of crème fraîche.

Yield: Makes 4 servings

Recipe source

Friday, July 8, 2011

Cucumber Agua Fresca

Photo source

This recipe is from the Food Bank newsletter, The News Beet.  I must admit that I was somewhat skeptical when Food Bank chef, Arturo Vargas, offered me a glass of Agua Fresca.  But, what a wonderful surprise!  One sip was all it took.  It was so delicious and refreshing. 

There are many variations of Agua Fresca, several of which add serano chili.  If you want to try that, add just a very little minced chili at a time and taste before adding more.

Cleo, Food Bank volunteer

  • 1 large cucumber
  • 5 limes
  •  1/2 bunch of mint
  • 1/8 cup of sugar
  • 1 1/2 cup of water
  • Cut the cucumber into 2 1/2 inch slices.  Place them in the blender along with 1/2 bunch mint, 1/8 cup of sugar and 1 1/2 cup of water.
  • Squeeze the limes into the blender as well and blend.
  • Strain the cucumber water into a pitcher and add ice.
  • ENJOY!
Makes: 4 servings
Prep time: 10 minutes

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

July's Volunteer of the Month: Jerrell "Jerry" Johnson

7/5/11: 650 pounds picked up in one car load!
What do you get when you mix a person with a big heart and 36 years of volunteer service? Jerry, of course! Several times a week for nearly 4 decades, he has helped by picking up donations at local grocery stores and delivering them to the Food Bank.  

A memorable story for Jerry is when he once loaded over 600 pounds of food into his car, filling up 27 banana boxes once he arrived at the Food Bank with the donation. He remembers staring at his small car and the huge stack of boxes in disbelief.

Jerry first heard about the Food Bank of Yolo County from his friend, Dorothy Laben (one of the founders of the Food Bank), who he volunteered with at a food closet in Davis. He enjoys the opportunities he’s had to “meet with people who are interested in feeding the hungry” and says that volunteering means he can “still be a valuable member of society” and help people in need.
When not volunteering with us, Jerry enjoys reading, hiking, camping, and teaching an adult literacy class.

Thank you, Jerry, for all of your hard work and dedication to the Food Bank throughout the years!

Friday, July 1, 2011


Photo source
The cucumber, having originated in India, has been cultivated for 3,000 years in Western Asia.  It was used by the Romans who were probably responsible for introducing it into the rest of Europe.  Today, China is the largest producer, followed by Turkey, Russia, Iran and the United States.  It is not surprising that two of the largest producers are located in the Middle East, as it as been grown there for millenia.

And after 3000 years there are many, many varieties of cucumber, several of which can be found in supermarkets, specialty stores and farmers' markets in this country.  There are three basic varieties of cucumber which are briefly discussed below.

Most people in this country are familiar with what is called a 'slicer', the variety found in most supermarkets and grown in backyard gardens.  It is used in its unripe green form since it becomes bitter and sour as it ripens.  This cucumber is found in salads and sandwiches and is eaten out of hand with a little salt.

Another variety is the 'pickling' cucumber which is generally smaller and bred to have characteristics suitable for pickling.

The third variety found in this country is the 'burpless' cucumber.  This category includes the English, Japanese, and Persian or Mediterranean cucumbers (my favorite).  They are called burpless because they are almost seedless and have thinner skins than the other variety that is eaten raw.  The seed and thicker skins of some cucumbers are believed to cause gas in some people.

Cucumbers are about 90% water and have a high content of vitamins A, B6 and C.  The skin is high in fiber as well being high in the minerals calcium, potassium, magnesium and silica.

Next week I will post a recipe for Aqua Fresca, a wonderful drink that is delicious and perfect for the hot, hot days of summer.

Cleo, Food Bank Volunteer

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Cannellini Beans with Kale

Photo source
Dinosaur or lacinato kale has popped up recently at the local farmers' markets and in CSA boxes.  Check out the ingredient info at the bottom of the page.
This is a good hot weather recipe if you prepare the beans from scratch in a slow cooker or you use canned cannellini beans. 
Cleo, Food Bank volunteer

  • 1 1/2 cups (10 to 11 ounces) dried cannellini (white kidney beans)
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 Turkish bay leaf (or substitute regular bay leaf)
  • 1 teaspoon dried sage
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups (packed) coarsely chopped stemmed lacinato kale
  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • Dried crushed red pepper

Place beans in pot with enough cold water to cover by 3 inches. Bring to boil. Continue to boil 1 minute. Remove from heat. Cover; let stand 1 hour. Drain beans; return to pot. Add 8 cups water, onion, garlic, bay leaf, and sage; bring to boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer until beans are tender, 1 to 11/2 hours. Stir in salt. Add kale; cook 4 minutes.
Drain beans and kale; place in large bowl. (Cover and chill liquid for soup.) Add oil, lemon juice, and red pepper to taste; toss. Season with salt and black pepper.

yield: Makes 12 cups
active time: 25 minutes
total time: 2 hours (if cooking beans from scratch; longer using a slow cooker)

Ingredient Info:Tuscan kale—also called cavolo nero, Lacinato, black kale, or dinosaur kale—has long, narrow, bumpy dark-green leaves. You can find it at better supermarkets and at farmers’ markets.

Recipe source

Friday, June 17, 2011

Kale and Potato Hash

Photo source
This is a versatile recipe that can be adapted to include a source of meat--similar recipes include sausage, Italian or regular breakfast sausage.  If you chose to add sausage, add it after sauting the onions and before adding the vinegar and sugar or just omit the last two.  You can also substitute red pepper flakes for the cayenne and omit the nutmeg.
 Cleo, Food Bank volunteer

  • 1 pound potatoes, peeled and boiled
  • 1 pound kale, washed and chopped
  • 2 large onions , chopped
  • 2 tbs. oil
  • 3-4 tbs. vinegar
  • 2 tbs. sugar
  • salt & pepper
  • cayenne
  • nutmeg
  1. Wash and peel the potatoes and boil. While they are cooking wash and chop the kale. Remove the thick stem also before chopping.
  2. Saute the onions in the oil. Add the salt, pepper and vinegar and sugar.
  3. To this mixture add the kale. When the potatoes are cooked, drain them and add to the kale.
  4. Using a fork mash them in large chunks into the kale and mix the entire combination together.
  5. Season to taste with salt and pepper and a dash of nutmeg and cayenne.
  6. This meal is traditionally served with sweet pickles and pearl onions on the side.
  7. One makes a bite of a piece of pickle or onion with the kale mixture.
  8. With a salad and whole grain bread this meal tastes great and is very warming on a cold night.
Serves 4
Recipe source

Monday, June 13, 2011

June's Volunteers of the Month: Tuesday Distribution Volunteers

A huge shout out goes to Sheriane, Karen, Doug, Ellen, Betty, And Barb! These volunteers help with a food distrubution that takes place every Tuesday morning at the Woodland Senior & Community Center.

We see Sheriane, Karen, Doug, and Ellen on Monday mornings to prepare bags of fresh produce to hand out. On Tuesdays, Sheriane has the help of Betty and Barb to distribute the food.

Thank you for all of your hard work!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Hunger Challenge: Final Report

Am sending this blog post from my Vacaville District Office.  Today, my 5th and final day of the 2011 Hunger Challenge, required additional planning because it is a “6-city hop”—leaving Davis to go to Fairfield this morning to speak at a local elementary school, then to Vacaville, to Woodland, back to Davis and then to Sacramento.  On a day like today, where to store my modest meals can become a challenge.  Fortunately, I was able to stash my lunch in our district office refrigerator before heading further west to my first appointment. 

In a few minutes, I will be heading to Woodland to host a volunteer recognition event for our Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, where we will serve my favorite food—Mexican!  However, I will not partake but wait until I get home to Davis for a final meal before heading to the airport to visit my daughter in San Diego. 

I asked the elementary school food service workers if they would be participating in the summer nutrition program, and they said, “Yes!”.  As the saying goes, “Hunger doesn’t go on vacation.”  I am glad to know that children will continue to get the basic nutrition they need over the summer months, at least in Fairfield. 

As my 2011 Hunger Challenge comes to a close, I hope that my participation has in a small way raised awareness and sparked conversations among my colleagues and those who may not think about the serious issue of hunger in California.  In the richest, most powerful nation in the world, to know that 1 in 6  Californians do not know where there next meal is coming from is not only a tragedy—it’s a disgrace.

I look forward to 2012, when I will again participate in a hunger challenge—because intellectualizing about hunger is not as powerful as experiencing it.

Sausage, Kale, and Lemon Lasagna, adapted

Photo source
This recipe comes highly recommended by the Food Bank Community Relations Coordinator.  It has been adapted from the original, which called for chard, but she accidentally bought kale.  The  result was so good that five people consumed it all at one meal.  It is in a white sauce base rather than a tomato base.
Be sure to use the 8" square baking dish for deeper slices.

Cleo, Food Bank Volunteer

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese (about 4 ounces)
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 5 cups coarsely chopped kale (about 1 bunch)
  • 1 pound sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1 lemon, very thinly sliced
  • 6 no-boil lasagna noodles, preferably Barilla


  1. Melt butter in a saucepan over high heat. Stir in flour; cook for 2 minutes. Whisk in milk. Bring to a boil, stirring. Reduce heat. Simmer for 1 minute. Remove from heat. Whisk in 3/4 cup cheese, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Stir in chard.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook sausage in a skillet over high heat, breaking up pieces, until no longer pink, about 4 minutes.
  3. Cover lemon slices with cold water by 3 inches in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer for 7 minutes. Transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate using a slotted spoon.
  4. Spread 1/4 cup sauce in an 8-inch square nonreactive baking dish. Top with 2 noodles, half the sausage, and 1 cup sauce. Repeat. Top with a layer of lemons, 2 noodles, then remaining sauce and lemons. Bake, covered with parchment-lined foil, for 27 minutes.
  5. Remove from oven. Heat broiler. Uncover lasagna; top with remaining 1/4 cup cheese. Broil until bubbling, 2 to 3 minutes.  
Prep Time 20 minutes 
Total Time 1 hour 
Yield Serves 4

Hunger Challenge: Day 5


Planned ahead to brew coffee last night, setting the pot up so I could just hit the “on” button this morning.  What’s important to note is that the cost of coffee filters, and even the electricity and water necessary to brew my most important beverage isn’t calculated into the weekly challenge.

For lunch today, I made a tuna sandwich from leftover salad from Wednesday night’s dinner, and decided to stretch my remaining cup of yogurt and one banana into two portions to last for two days, so  I will have a blueberry-banana yogurt for today and Friday.

We have received interesting news coverage over the course of the week. A popular Davis Enterprise columnist has written about the challenge for the past two years; he believes that by shopping at Costco, with the average monthly maximum benefit for a family of six ($952) in Yolo County, his food dollars could be stretched.  The good news is that Costco now does accept EBT (Electronic Benefits Transfer); the not-as-good-news for low-income families is that a Costco annual membership is $45.  Further, the poor, the elderly and people with disabilities face barriers to transportation, and are less likely to be able to negotiate the bulk-size commodities that Costco sells.  However, if a “food shopping club” could be organized, something that I helped put together years ago for a group of seniors living in one apartment complex, the benefits of cooperative purchasing could actually help.

Our local columnist also suggests that he would spend his $4.44 on dollar cheeseburgers.  If he accepted my challenge, how he chooses to spend his benefit would be entirely up to him.  But choosing the fast food option highlights one of the main issues with food assistance—that fresh and healthy food choices are largely out-of-reach for low-income individuals and they often have poorer health outcomes as a result.

Haven’t thought ahead to dinner tonight, as I will be spending time at a Sacramento phone bank in support of a 2011 state budget that includes a revenue extension. 

Friday, I will be visiting an elementary school in Fairfield, responding to several 5th and 6th graders who wrote to our office about the cuts to education.  These students will soon be on summer vacation; those who rely upon free- or reduced-price breakfast and lunch during the school year may also have access to a summer nutrition program:

Final thoughts coming tomorrow.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Hunger Challenge: Day 4

Last night’s meal of stir-fried turkey with black beans and green beans over noodles was a combination borne out of “ingredient necessity”.  Not the tastiest, but filling.

Today is Wednesday and I am “mid-week” with the Hunger Challenge.  I am pleased to learn that there is a staffer in the building who has also joined me for today.  I invited her to send her thoughts to the blog.

During a noon-talk that I gave to the Executive Fellows, several were incredulous that I was participating in this activity, asking me, “How do you do that?” (live on $4.44 a day for food).  I replied that this brief exercise required planning, budgeting, and restraint, and that 2.5 million Californians are facing this every day.

Having left home in a rush this morning, I microwaved leftover coffee from Tuesday and filled my thermos about a third-full.  I grabbed a whole banana, a yogurt (only one remaining from the 4-pk), and a slice of 12-grain bread.  After a full day phone calls, events, presentations, speeches, and preparations for next week’s Senate committee hearings, I do feel hungry and am thinking ahead as to what I will put together for dinner tonight.  Perhaps my can of chicken corn chowder, a lettuce and tomato salad, and toast is on the evening horizon.  I couldn’t imagine if, after a long and exhausting day like this one, I would then have to travel long distances to obtain any fresh food to prepare for a meal, as many who live in “food deserts” across the state must do every day or week.  A few bills in the Legislature address this issue, including  Speaker Perez’s AB 581 which creates the California Healthy Food Financing Initiative to help expand access to healthy foods in underserved communities.  Through our work in the Legislature, I hope we can minimize the burden on these communities with limited nutritious food options.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Hunger Challenge: Day 3

When I returned from the single-payer, universal healthcare forum in Woodland about 10 p.m. on Monday evening, I was feeling a little hungry.   I had last eaten about 4 p.m. (a turkey-burger with lettuce and tomato).  I decided to make a package of ramen noodles, adding a handful of fresh green beans and about a quarter of the tofu block.  I used very little of the high-sodium content seasoning packet (not healthy). 

Looking through my mail, I noticed a number of fast-food ads for chicken and pizza, hamburgers and burritos.  On a $4.44 daily budget, chicken and pizza were not an option; hamburgers and burritos were somewhat more affordable, but if I had chosen to do a “fast food day”, such a purchase would have only covered one or two of my daily meals.  As I settled into my home office chair, I noticed the number of online ads from restaurants whose menu items were out-of-reach.  What occurred to me is that food ads are all around, but for millions of Californians, going out to eat is unaffordable.

Tuesday – Caucus Day

I skipped breakfast, as I customarily do, and drank half-a-thermos of home-brewed coffee this morning.

Tuesdays at noon, the Members of the Legislature gather for their respective weekly noon caucuses, at which lunch is provided (again, Members pay a monthly fee for this privilege).  This is my third year participating in the Food Stamp Challenge as a state legislator, but still taking one’s modest lunch into caucus requires some humor.  News of the 2011 Hunger Challenge had published in what is known as the “Capitol Morning Report”, a must-read subscription news compilation of all that’s happening in and outside the Capitol, so news of my challenge had “filtered out”.

A few members asked me, “How are you doing?”   One committed to joining me next year.  What I brought for lunch was a half-turkey sandwich, lettuce and tomato salad, and a blueberry yogurt.  As a confirmed dessert-fiend, I looked longingly at the trays of rich brownie treats that was put out for the members, but remained disciplined and did not succumb to the sugary temptation!

After an afternoon of meetings, media interviews, and review and editing of various letters and bill communications, I will be heading to an evening reception at which there will once again be an abundance of food.  I will pay my respects and then leave for home and prepare a stir-fry turkey dish with black beans and noodles.

More Wednesday!