Vegan Cooking Tips

Working with Food Banks

By Chef Nancy Berkoff, RD, EdD, CCE

June 6th of each year has been designated World Food Day (previously known as World Hunger Day). Over the past few years, the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank has sponsored events as part of a citywide day of hunger awareness, and I have had the opportunity to coordinate an activity at a local inner city elementary school or child care center.

This past year, as part of a healthy eating program, I assisted a second grade class of 20 students in assembling snack boxes that included healthy granola (made with popcorn, whole wheat pretzels, sunflower seeds, raisins, and bran flakes), juice boxes, fresh apples, and fruit preserve sandwiches. Each child assembled four boxes, one for themselves and three to go to school programs unable to offer the participants any meals or snacks. The children and I created a 'lesson' of healthy meal planning and how to eat from the plant kingdom. I was also on the loading docks of the Food Bank as they gave away more than 15,000 pounds of fresh fruit and vegetables to community food programs.

As part of their continuing nutrition education program, the Food Bank has had some local nutritionists designing recipes that program participants can use. The recipes must:

- Contain no more than four ingredients,
- Preferably be vegetarian,
- Be simple to prepare with a minimum of equipment,
- Preferably be low in fat and salt, and
- Utilize ingredients available in the Food Bank.

It was quite a challenge!

Here are a few examples of the recipes that I have been creating. Try these dishes out the next time you're trying to put together a meal from what you already have on hand in your home.

Fast and Flavorful Dinner Stew

(Serves 4)

  • One 16-ounce can lentils or white beans, drained, or 2 cups
    (approximately 1 pound) cooked, drained lentils or white beans
  • 1-½ cups prepared salsa (fresh or canned)
  • One 16-ounce can pinto beans, drained and rinsed, or 2 cups
    (approximately 1 pound) cooked pinto beans

Place lentils or white beans and salsa in a medium-sized pot, mix, cover, and simmer until hot for approximately 8 minutes. Stir in pinto beans, cover, and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Serve hot over cooked pasta, rice, mashed or baked potatoes, or oven-toasted bread.

Note: This recipe can also be prepared in a microwave. Mix the lentils and salsa in a 2-quart microwave-safe bowl. Cover and microwave on HIGH for 3 minutes or until very hot. Stir in pintos, re-cover, and heat on HIGH for another minute or until ingredients are hot.

Total calories per serving: 256 Fat: 2 grams
Carbohydrates: 46 grams Protein: 17 grams
Sodium: 757 milligrams Fiber: 16 grams

Hash Browned Potatoes and Carrots

(Serves 4)

  • Vegetable oil spray or 2 teaspoons cooking oil
  • 4 peeled and finely chopped baking potatoes
  • 2 cups thawed frozen carrots
  • Black pepper to taste

Spray a large frying pan with oil and heat. Add potatoes and cook, stirring frequently to ensure even cooking, for approximately 8 minutes. While the potatoes are cooking, chop the thawed carrots. When potatoes are soft, mix in the carrots. Cook until browned and hot. Add pepper to taste and serve hot.

Total calories per serving: 190 Fat: 3 grams
Carbohydrates: 39 grams Protein: 4 grams
Sodium: 46 milligrams Fiber: 4 grams

Baked Peaches

(Serves 4)

This recipe can be served as part of a hot breakfast, as a side dish for a spicy entrée, or as a dessert. For a change of flavor, try this recipe with canned pears, pineapple rings, plums, or apricots.

  • 8 canned peach halves, drained
  • 3 Tablespoons (approximately ¼ cup) nonhydrogenated vegan margarine
  • 1 cup crushed corn flakes, vegan granola, or other cold vegan cereal

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place peach halves, with pit side facing up, in a casserole dish. Bake for 5 minutes or until peaches are warm.

While peaches are baking, place margarine in a small pot and melt. Stir in cereal or granola. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring, until cereal is well coated with margarine. Remove peaches from oven, place in a serving dish, and sprinkle with cereal mixture. Serve hot or warm.

Note: If desired, cereal and margarine can be melted and mixed in a microwave instead of on the stove.