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! 

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Hunger Challenge Day 2

Sunday evening, I divided the 1-lb ground turkey into thirds.  I stir-fried 2/3rds and with the remaining 1/3, added the ends of my bread loaf as filler and cooked three turkey-burger patties.

Monday morning, I brewed a pot of coffee, filling a thermos to bring with me to work, rather than going to the Member’s Lounge where coffee is always available (Members do pay a monthly fee for this privilege).  For today’s lunch, I brought a half-banana and a yogurt; for dinner before attending a speaking engagement on single-payer universal healthcare in Woodland, I will have a turkey-burger on wheat bread with lettuce and tomato.

With last Thursday’s release of the new USDA “”, I have tried to balance the food I have available with my day’s activities (Capitol visit  with local elementary school children, Floor Session, and an evening speaking engagement).  However, I do not think I reached 50% fresh fruits and vegetables today.

We have Assembly floor session today (Monday).  I will be seeing my Hunger Challenge-mate, Assemblymember Jim Beall, Jr., on the Floor in a few minutes, and will see how he is faring on Day 1.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Assemblymember Yamada Blogs About the Food Stamp Challenge

We are pleased to announce that this year Assemblymember Mariko Yamada will once again participate in the Food Stamp Challenge, spending the next 5 days eating on the average allotment received by a CalFresh recipient (the new name in California for Food Stamps). According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture which administers the program, the average weekly food stamp benefit is $22 - that's $4.43 per day, or just $1.48 per meal. We welcome you to follow her progress here, share your thoughts, take up the challenge yourself, or learn more about taking action in the fight against hunger by visiting our website,

Day 1:

After speaking at Davis Community Meals 3rd Annual "Hand in Hand" Fundraiser, I went to my local Safeway armed with the grocery ads and a calculator.

Here is what I bought for this year's Hunger Challenge:

1 pound ground turkey - 3.99 (50% discount due to expiration date today)
1 extra firm Tofu Lite -1.99
1 can chicken corn chowder soup - 1.29
1 can black beans - .79
1 can tuna - .99
1 4pk yogurt - 1.49
1 6pk Top Ramen - .89
1 loaf 12-grain bread - 2.49
1 red leaf lettuce - .79
3 bananas - .62
2 tomatoes - .52
1 pk fresh green beans - 2.00
1 can organic coffee - 3.49

13 items total = $21.34

What is different from previous years is that I found in-store coupon deals through which I could afford COFFEE.  Since this is my beverage of choice, and practically one of my five basic food groups, the week ahead should be a little easier for everyone around me.

Going to cook the ground turkey now because it expires tonight.

Friday, June 3, 2011

5-Minute Kale with Sea Vegetables

Photo source
A quick and easy recipe for kale as a salad and its dressing.  For those unfamiliar with agar, it is a sea weed extract used as a thickening agent in food.  It is also called Kanten and it can be found at a natural food store, a food coop or the Asian food section of a supermarket.  It is also used as a substitute for gelatin in desserts.
 Cleo, Food Bank Volunteer

  • 1 pound kale
  • Mediterranean Dressing
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 medium clove garlic, pressed
  • 1 TBS extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • 3-1/2 TBS agar (sea vegetable)
  1. Chop garlic and let sit for 5 minutes to enhance its health-promoting properties.
  2. Fill bottom of steamer with 2 inches of water and bring to boil.
  3. While water is coming to a boil, slice kale leaves into 1/2-inch slices, and cut again crosswise. Cut stems into 1/4-inch slices. Let kale sit for at least 5 minutes to bring out it health-promoting properties.
  4. When water comes to a boil, add kale to steamer basket and cover. Steam for 5 minutes.
  5. Transfer to a bowl and toss with Mediterranean Dressing ingredients and agar. Mediterranean Dressing does not have to be made separately. For the best flavor, toss with dressing while kale is still hot.  
Prep and Cook Time: 15 minutes
Serves 2

Recipe source