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More Than a Recipe: Why We Love Sharing Meals

It’s hard to imagine a world without cooking. So many of our memories involve food, and sharing meals with others is just as important as the ingredients themselves. It’s something that brings people together — something we should be doing more often! Over the past month, a few of us at South Michigan Food Bank have taken time to spend special moments with our friends and family in the kitchen, eating delicious dishes made from fresh foods straight from our Fresh Food Boxes from the Fresh Food Program.

We hope you enjoy these recipes and stories from our staff and their family & friends; but more than this, we hope they inspire you to make memories around the table with yours.

AMANDA

“I was trying to use as many ingredients from the box as I could in one meal and decided to go for an Indian feast with curried split peas and tomatoes, cottage cheese curry, and seasoned potatoes. Most of the fresh ingredients for the split peas, like carrots and onion, can be found regularly in our fresh food boxes. Split peas are very inexpensive and healthy and can work well with tons of different flavors. I decided to turn these into an Indian-style curry dish to serve with rice. This makes a ton of food, and it also keeps well for leftovers, and freezes well to use later on when you don’t have time to cook.”

“I love food because it brings people together and helps cross barriers. My most memorable meal ever was in India. We were all sitting in a circle on a lunch break where no one else spoke English. Someone next to me took my plate and started passing it around and scooping part of everyone’s lunch onto my plate, and passed the lunch I brought around for everyone else to take some. By the end I had a whole tray full of delicious, homemade food. I will always remember how welcomed I felt though we couldn’t even talk.”

Amanda also grilled asparagus and tomatoes from the fresh box and paired it with rice and grilled chicken!

MARSHA

This summer, Marsha and her husband Mark are excited about a new mealtime tradition. Once a week, their 10-year-old daughter, Annika, will choose a meal for dinner, write the grocery list, and prepare the meal for their family, while Marsha and Mark set the table and do the dishes. (Annika has a family meals Pinterest board all ready for the summer!)

In preparation for Annika’s summer cooking adventure, their family prepared several different meals from our Fresh Food Box!

Georgia Cracker Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 sleeve saltine crackers-coarsely broken
  • 4 large tomatoes
  • 3 green onions
  • 1 ½ cup mayo (can substitute Miracle Whip)
  • 1 hardboiled egg (optional)
  • ½ cup bacon crumbles (optional)
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  • Wash and coarsely chop the tomatoes and green onions. In a medium bowl, combine the tomatoes, mayo, and green onions. Add the broken crackers, cut up hardboiled egg, bacon, and toss lightly to coat.
  • Add salt and generous amount of black pepper to taste. Serve immediately. 
  • This salad takes minutes to put together and is a hit at summer parties. We like to add a cup of shredded cheddar cheese and a few dashes of Frank’s hot sauce to ours!

SPLIT PEA TORTILLA SOUP

Ingredients

  • ½ lb. ground beef
  • ½ cup onion (chopped)
  • ½ cup green or yellow peppers (chopped)
  • 30 oz tomato sauce (1-15oz cans)
  • 15 oz diced tomatoes
  • 15 oz black beans (undrained)
  • 15 oz kidney beans (undrained)
  • 1 cup salsa
  • 1 cup yellow or green split peas (do not soak)
  • 2 tsp salt (to taste)
  • 2 tsp chili powder (to taste)
  • 2 tsp cumin (to taste)

Instructions

  • In a large sauté pan, brown the ground beefer along with your chopped onions and chopped peppers over medium heat.   Continue cooking until ground beef is cooked thoroughly and onions are translucent.
  • Drain the grease out of the pan.
  • Add the ground beef, onion, peppers, tomato sauce, black beans, kidney beans, salsa, split peas, and seasoning to a large pot.
  • Simmer the soup until the split peas are tender about 60-70 minutes.  (add beef, chicken broth or water as needed if the soup gets too thick)
  • Serve with your favorite topping.

Optional Toppings

  • Shredded cheddar cheese
  • Cilantro (chopped)
  • Green onions (minced)
  • Avocado or guacamole
  • Diced tomatoes
  • Sour cream
  • Tortilla chips

CHEESY POTATO BREAKFAST CASSEROLE

Ingredients

  • 8 eggs
  • ½ cup milk
  • 10 oz breakfast sausage pre-cooked
  • 5 fresh potatoes, peeled and shredded
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cups of shredded cheese- any variety

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Clean, peel, and shred potatoes
  • Set aside 1 cup of cheese
  • Add eggs, milk, sausage, potatoes, salt, pepper, and the remainder of the cheese in a large bowl. Mix until combined.
  • Pour into greased 9×13 pan. Bake for 60  minutes. Take out and add the remaining cheese. Place back in the oven and cook for an additional 5-7 minutes.

Snickers Caramel Apple Dessert

Ingredients

  • 8 small apples, cored and chopped (I like to use Granny Smith or Red Delicious)
  • 6 full size Snickers Candy Bars, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 (5.1 ounce) box of instant vanilla pudding mix
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1- 12 oz container Cool Whip
  • 1 Cup Marshmallows, optional
  • ½ cup caramel sauce
  • ½ cup peanuts

Instructions

  • Whip together pudding mix and milk in a large bowl.  Fold in Cool Whip
  • Fold in apples, chopped Snickers, and marshmallows
  • Drizzle caramel sauce on top
  • Sprinkle on peanuts
  • Refrigerate until ready to serve

One of our team members first learned to cook when she got married, when “push came to shove.” In addition to cooking at home being a financial necessity, she wanted to create meals for her family. But at the beginning, it was daunting. “There were failures, but then I began to graduate from one thing to the next.” Now, she loves cooking her family meals — especially weekly taco night. 

When she was first learning how to cook, some of her favorite things to make were simple ones, like dips. And even now, dips are a go-to. Here’s her recipe for Tortilla Chip Dip, inspired by El Azteco in Lansing.

TORTILLA CHIP DIP

Ingredients

  • Equal amounts of sour cream and cottage cheese (1 cup each)
  • 8 oz mozzarella cheese
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • Chopped scallions
  • Chopped jalapeno

Instructions

  • Mix all ingredients together.
  • Refrigerate for an hour or two then serve with chips.

Potato Wedges

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons garlic salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 2/3 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • potatoes
  • olive oil

Instructions

  • Clean potatoes and cut as desired, then toss in a large bowl with olive oil.
  • Toss with mixed seasoning ingredients.
  • Put on a baking sheet and bake at 425 degrees for 25 minutes.
  • Flip potatoes and bake for 25 minutes more.