Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Campus Kitchen Idea Booklet

Early this year, I found myself in a new city, transitioning between jobs and with quite a bit of extra time on my hands. After several dreary winter afternoons spent lounging on the sofa, watching sitcom re-re-re-runs, I decided that the time had come to look for a volunteer opportunity. After a few days of skimming through local newspapers and newsletters, I finally got lucky with Volunteer Match. Within minutes, I found the Campus Kitchen Project, a mere 20 minute walk from my home. Since the first week of February, I have been spending 2-3 hours a week volunteering there and it is the most rewarding thing I have done in a long time.

What is the Campus Kitchen project? Their mission is simple...
(a) Collect good, nutritious food that may otherwise be wasted. Our campus kitchen (CK) gets prepared food from the campus cafeterias and restaurants and unsold produce, bread etc. from stores like Whole Foods and Trader Joe's, to name some sources. At the end of every semester, students donate food that they would otherwise throw out before they go home for the summer/ winter break: before summer break, CK collected a thousand lbs of granola bars, fruit cups, canned soup, cereal and other student staples!
(b) CK has a full-size fully equipped professional kitchen donated by the university (this is the "campus" part of campus kitchens...they are mostly located in colleges and universities). In this kitchen, all the donated food is converted into delicious, nutritious and well-balanced meals that are neatly packaged in an appetizing way. There is only one employee (the coordinator), everyone else who works here is a volunteer.
(c) The prepared meals are delivered by volunteers to citizens in the surrounding neighborhoods who are in need. In this way, a ton of perfectly good and edible food is saved from being tossed in the garbage, and at the same time, we are fighting hunger in the community.

I confess that I am one of those people who claim to be "hungry" or "starving" every few hours, without ever knowing the true meaning of those words. Real hunger is painful and horrifying, it stamps out human dignity. When people think of hunger, they sometimes think that it is restricted to war-torn regions of Africa and sprawling slums in Asia. The fact is, hunger exists everywhere in the world, and to an extraordinary degree in the wealthiest country in the world. The lack of food is often officially described as food insecurity. If you ask me, the cold and clinical term "food insecurity" does not even begin to describe the gnawing pain and helplessness of the word "hunger".

So, Mondays in spring semester and Tuesdays in summer, I find myself in the middle of a cooking shift in CK. Meals- including breakfast, lunch and dinner- are made for 100-150 people at every shift. Meals are served in the traditional American style: protein (some form of meat), starch (pasta/rice/ bread/ potatoes), vegetable and dessert/ fruit. I usually take care of the vegetables, and occasionally, the starch portion of the meal. You have to walk into the pantry, check the coolers to see what food has been donated, and work with it. No matter what combination of foods you have on hand, you have to produce something delicious and nutritious, and in the required number of servings. It is quite challenging: a little bit like the TV show Top Chef :) And only a hundred times more meaningful- instead of serving meals to a panel of sneering judges, we are actually serving real people who will be nourished by it! Sometimes, at the beginning of a shift, we find that food is running low, and there are worried looks as the cooking team tries to think of ways to make the amount of food that we need for the day. Miraculously, ideas start spinning and we are always able to make enough food, and to be completely satisfied by the way it looks and tastes. I have made (alone or as part of a team): macaroni and cheese, PB & J sandwiches, egg sandwiches, grilled cheese sandwiches, mushroom-onion rice, roasted vegetables, fruit salad, glazed carrots, taco salad, pasta salad and a dozen other dishes; 40-120 servings of each.

You know the secret to volunteer work, right? That you put in just a little bit of time, and you get *so much* in return. For one, I have the thrill of working in a real big-scale kitchen and live out my fantasies of being a "real chef", heaving giant pots of boiling pasta around, and pulling out 10-lb bags of potatoes and peeling them busily. Plus, I look cute in a hair-net :D
The majority of the other volunteers at CK are college students (undergrads) and it is really fun to be around them. They have never had their own kitchens, themselves live in dorms and eat in cafeterias or fast food restaurants, but the love that they put into cooking is just so inspiring. I have seen these teenagers spend their evenings making mountains of French toast, choosing spices and adding pinches of nutmeg and cinnamon with just as much care as they would put into a special meal for their own families. The job also reinforces the dignity of labor- at the end of every shift, volunteers wash dishes, wipe the counters, mop the floors. Every job is done with a smile. In the end, when the food is neatly packaged into boxes, there are admiring "oohs and aahs" and remarks of "that looks so good!". Another set of volunteers leaves to finish the deliveries. I went on a delivery shift just once and could not hold back my tears when I realized that so many of the meals were sustaining elderly people. These are folks who have worked hard their whole lives, and probably enjoyed cooking as much as you and me, but now find themselves in a difficult situation in their twilight years. They might be unable to buy food (tell me if there is a good way to decide between spending a small pension on either food or prescription medications), or to carry it home , or to prepare it (one lady I met has dizzy spells, which makes it dangerous for her to be cooking). The volunteers always spend a few minutes chatting with the clients, sharing a story and a smile, making sure the clients are doing OK.

Anyway, let me come to the real point of this post: as I said before, the cooks face a challenge in every cooking shift- they have to come up with good recipes using the most basic ingredients. We also don't like to repeat dishes often; we like to keep the contents of the box exciting and appetizing for the recipient. I decided to take on a little project: to make a little Idea Booklet for Campus Kitchen, with some easy recipes, ideas for using the food that we most commonly find in our pantry, and suggestions for cooking common vegetables. Volunteers have varying experience with cooking, and I would love for new cooks to have some ideas to fall back on. My experience with fellow-bloggers and readers of this blog has been that you are a very creative and helpful bunch of people! If you would like to help me in my little project, read on...

a) The foods we commonly have on hand is
1. Fresh fruit: bananas, apples, oranges (sometimes)
2. Fresh vegetables: potatoes, onions (always) and mushrooms, carrots, corn, bagged salads and other vegetable (sometimes)
3. Canned fruit (always)
4. Canned vegetables (always)
5. Canned beans (always)
6. Rice, pasta (always)
7. Eggs (sometimes)
8. Bread (always in plenty)

b) Our challenge: to come up with recipes using the above foods. These could be for the "starch", "vegetable" or "dessert" portion of the meal- for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

c) What else is available:
Equipment: There is stove-top burners, grill surface, convection oven.
Ingredients: corn oil, olive oil (sometimes), salt and common seasonings and spices, flour, sugar, powdered milk, vanilla etc. are always on hand.

d) Constraints:
1. No soups or stews because the meals are served in clamshell containers and liquid foods cannot be packaged in these.
2. No food processor, so shredding raw vegetables is a challenge. No microwave, either.

The most valuable recipes for CK are the ones that are easy to make in large quantities, and that are nutritious and crowd-pleasing since we cater to a variety of palates. "Concept" recipes and ideas, rather than exacting ones requiring specific ingredients would be most useful. We really love recipes that are "forgiving" because there is no guarantee that any one ingredient will be available in the kitchen at any given time. Vegetables are the hardest to come by, and any ways to make canned veggies more appealing are much appreciated. Bread is often overflowing, so good ways to use up bread are also much appreciated.

If you have an idea or recipe to share, please do so via e-mail or by leaving a comment. Note that this idea booklet is not going to be "published" in any way. I will merely compile a neat word document, with a good index to make searching easy, and take a print-out and put it in a folder for all the cooks to use. Food bloggers, if the recipe is from your blog and you are willing to share it, I will print it with the permalink crediting it to you. Thank you for your ideas and for taking the time to read this. Updated: I plan to do make this little booklet by the end of September. So, ideas would be most welcome until 25th September.

One more request: I know that many of you are enthusiastic gardeners and can end up with more produce in your garden than you could possibly use. The biggest scarcity we face in CK is: fresh vegetables. A few weeks ago, someone dropped off a big bag of radishes from their garden and we were so grateful! We sliced those radishes and added them to a big salad; it just made our day to be able to put something fresh and beautiful into the boxes. So, please, if you have extra vegetables or fruits or herbs from your garden, consider donating them to a local community kitchen. If you live in St. Louis and bring them in to CK, you know you will get a big hug from me :)

Tomorrow, India celebrates her 60th birthday! Wishing everyone a very happy Independence Day!


  1. Happy Independence day to you too. Will try to cook within the said constraints and contribute from my side.

  2. Hi Nupur,
    i was really moved reading this post. I admire your stamina and work in this CK project. I will forward this post to my relatives in STL so they can bring their garden veggies!
    I will email/comment my ideas when I get a chance!

  3. Hima, you don't have to actually cook at all! I am just collecting ideas. Thanks a lot!

    Archana, that is very appreciated!

  4. more power to you and your team, nupur. will send you an e-mail if we can think up something.

  5. Nupur, I am so proud of you. You are agem,
    Shall mail if I have ideas. But it has to be something that can be cooked easily for a large number right ?

  6. Hi Nupur! really great project dear. Never tried and heard also. You are really great to participate as a volunteer. To serve food is a appreciated work. I will accept with you about cooking some new nutritious and healthy recipes daily is really challenging work. I will try to collect from my friends too. Thanks for giving a chance to participate in this great project.

    A Very happy Independence Day to you too. Keep it up.

  7. That's a lovely idea, Nupur. I had ters in my eyes as I read your account. Yes, there is a lot of hunger, even in the US and especially amongst the elderly. They are also incredibly lonely.

    I'll send you ideas by email. Do you have a date by which you would like to see these recipes come to you?

    And, another thought, since printed copies would be good to have in the Campus Kitchen, ask a local printer if he will print some copies for you for free. Or ask people who volunteer there if they will print a copy each till you have enough copies for reference.

  8. it sure is a fulfilling exp! I guess least time consuming but nutritious that too in a large quantity must be quite challenging, will try to think over it.

  9. Hi Nupur!
    Happy Independence day to you too! that's a good thing you are doing!!!! keep it up!

  10. Happy Independence day to you too, Nupur. I am glad that you took up this opportunity-i do wish to contribute some ideas, on simple quick, but nutritious meals. is there any deadline that you have marked to compile the booklet. Will mail you few recipe thoughts-and thanks a ton for the "ingredients on hand" list :).


  11. What a great cause! I am so terribly proud of you and the work you are doing!
    I will e-mail you as soon as I can think of something suitable.
    Happy Independence day to u too.

  12. St. Louis is lucky to have you here! I'm lucky to have you nearby! This brought tears to my eyes, for sure. I'm forwarding around to other St. Louisans who might know someone who knows someone who knows someone ... with a garden.

  13. No words can describe what you guys at CK are doing. I am would be honoured to lend you a helping hand.

  14. What a wonderful thought Nupur, I'm sure all those receiving the meals are very grateful to wonderful people like yourself. You're a true inspiration! :)

  15. will surely try to come up with something. Happy independence day to you too.

  16. Nupur , I love and really admire what you are doing . Wish to find some such work for myself here in UK. And this idea of yours to document recipes is brilliant. Will mail you some . I'll do a bit of searching around first.

  17. Nupur, this post brings a smile to my face and tears to my eyes. Please count me in for recipes.

  18. Hallo,

    I have a simple solution for excess/ stale bread, which I discovered by accident, because I often buy more bread than I can eat.

    I tear up the bread into coarse chunks, put it in a baking-dish, sprinkle a handful of salt, lots of garlic cloves (don't peel them, they steam in their skins), and drizzle the whole thing with olive oil. Pull out when the bread is crisp, fragrant with olive and garlic, and the garlic has steamed and turned mushy and slightly sweet.

    Depending on what I have at hand, I add freshly cracked black pepper, and fresh herbs (rosemary is very good), a little more olive oil, and push back into the oven for a few minutes more.

    This is a good base- sometimes I add cherry tomatoes for the last five minutes.

    I do something similar with vegetables, because I'm too lazy to cook them any other way. I chop zucchini, bell peppers, cherry, tomatoes, onions, corn on the cob, drizzle with olive oil and push into the oven on a baking tray. A sprinkling of sugar brings out the caramel sweetness of the onions. Last five minutes I add any spices (tastes great with some freshly roasted cumin powder and some chilli powder) or Western-style with some balsamic vinegar and herbs (sage is very good). Try adding some mozarella for the last few minutes (should just soften, but not melt)

    This recipe bulks really well. You can have trays ready prepared, and since most ovens handle two at a time, you can keep pulling them out. Also good cocktail food, when passed around with toothpicks.

    The only trick is chopping the vegetables- the zucchini must be much thicker than the bell peppers, otherwise it will turn mushy before the rest cooks.

  19. Another classic recipe for stale bread in my family is bread pudding. I'm sure students throw out lots of old jam bottles, plus you have the canned fruit. Layer bread and jam, or canned fruit, add cinnamon, raisins or toasted nuts depending on what you have. Mix up egg yolks, milk, sugar, and vanilla and pour over the bread. Let it soak for a bit, and then push into the oven. Sprinkle more sugar on the surface for a caramel flavour. Pull out when the custard has set (but not too firm) and the ends of the bread are crispy.

    A great winter-treat, and so versatile. If you have coffee, you can mix up a coffee custard, crush a cup of nuts, and create a coffee-nut bread pudding. Serve with whipped cream if the students have left you any cans over.

  20. A friend of mine taught me a potato frittata. Slice boiled potatoes. Add some oil to a non-stick pan and get it hot. Arrange the potatoes in overlapping discs in a circle on a plate. Quickly flip the fry pan onto the plate and then flip back. You should have ready a mixture of beaten eggs, milk, and flour. Add your seasonings to it- she sometimes added corn niblets, bits of bell pepper, pepperoni, chopped onion, or even spinach. An Indian version could use Indian spices, coriander, and green chilli. Pour this mixture onto the potatoe layer in the frying pan and shake a little, so it runs through the spaces. Cover with a lid and let the frittata (potato omelette) set.

    To serve flip it out of the pan onto a big plate (a non-stick pan and lots of oil are important). A frittata is like a pie, you cut slices from it to serve it.

    PS. What do you do with the egg whites left over from an egg custard? Meringue! The easiest sweet to make, you can add a little bag of fresh baked meringues to their lunch-boxes, I'm sure it'll make their day!

  21. Nupur,
    very well written, hunger has no boundries, volunteering in such an org I am sure brings in a lot of satisfaction.
    this year enjoyed/enjoying adundant crop of veggies, your post inspired me to go donate the abundance

  22. My last recipe for the day. I love a salad I created out of grated carrots, chopped apple, chopped radicchio or chicoree (the bitterness counteracts the sweetness of the carrot and apple), sunflower seeds, raisins, toasted nuts.

    A dressing of oil, fresh lemon juice, black pepper, salt, and more sugar to bring out the sweetness of the apple/ carrots. All a question of balancing the sweet and bitter ingredients.

    I call it my muesli salad, because so many of the same ingredients are in it, and because it's so healthy.
    The best thing about this salad is how easy it is to bulk up.

    Test it on a few people though- I love the bitter-sweet combination, but some people won't eat anything bitter.

  23. hey nup,
    happy I day to u too and a big hug as well.
    Went through your list of ingredient(s). Nothing comes to the mind at the moment but am sure ideas will be flooding through soon enough. will mail you when that happens. For now I can think of omelletes with potatoes and eggs. Just add a pinch of oregano too and cheeze if u have it handy.
    you take care

  24. Nupur, you are truly amazing! You are doing some amazing work that actually makes a difference! I'll email you a couple of recipes I can think of.

  25. Hi Nupur, I was really moved by your post. This is such a fulfilling experience. Will try to come up with something. Happy Independence Day to you too!

  26. Nupur, this is a great and worthy idea. I promise to spend some time looking at the ingredients and see what recipe I can contribute.

    Happy Independence Day to you and the family.

  27. HATS OFF to you girl!! I have no words to tell you after reading this wonderful post of yours....

    An email is coming your way!!

  28. Hi Nupur, that was a very touching post. Would love to send a recipe for your Idea booklet. Kudos to your effort, hope it is a huge success.
    Wish you a very Happy Independence day.

  29. Nupur, you are an angel! I'm putting on my thinking cap and will send you a note soon. I think I'll probably send a couple of "concepts" rather than recipes, since I've never cooked on that scale before!

  30. Let me think of what I can come up with.

    I am glad to have met a fellow volunteer. I have been volunteering regularly from 1993 onwards and even set up branches for the cities that I lived in for a volunteer placement group.

  31. This is a great undertaking, and thanks for writing it out in such vivid detail. I could pretty much picture everything in my mind. It just struck me so bad that even though I enjoy cooking for family and friends, I doubt I would be able to work like this in a large kitchen operation with so many constraints. That, my dear, is a real achievement.

  32. Nupur,
    That is such a moving post. Hats off to you and CK. Will mail you if I come up with some easy recipes.


  33. Bee, thanks :) You and J always have good ideas!

    Sandeepa, yes, as far as possible, but we always have situations where we need only 30 or so servings of something.

    Jyothi, I am sure there are plenty of such opportunities near your home too, if you are interested you could do some searches on the 'net.

    Manisha, yes, depression and loneliness are so common among the elderly population. I updated the post to say that I would love it if people could share their ideas by Sep 25th, thanks for reminding me to do that.
    That is a great idea- to ask a printer to donate some free prints!

    Richa, it is very fulfilling! I can sleep better knowing I did something meaningful that day.

    Usha, thanks!

    Musical, 25th sep is the deadline! Thanks for your help!

    TBC, thank you!

    Alanna, no, no, I am lucky to have CK! Within weeks of arriving in a strange city, I found my "community" in them! That was such a lucky break for me. CK could also use any surplus dry pantry staples that people wish to donate. Thank you for spreading the word!

    Suganya, I am sure you will have terrific ideas!

  34. Meena, I don't think of it that way at all! Sharing of food is fun, and there is no gratitude involved, except that we are collectively grateful for the food.

    Sharmi, thanks!

    Anupama, I am sure you will find lots of community kitchens in the UK- an internet search should show some places near your home! It is so much fun!

    Lydia, I'll wait for your recipes- I am sure you have some terrrific ideas in store for us!

    Anon, that baked garlic bread idea is wonderful! I love it! And yes, we could totally play around with herbs and seasonings. and yes, we do have gigantic trays to do this on.
    We do make roasted veggies a lot, because they are so easy to make and so delicious. I agree, the veggies have to be cut so that they cook in the same amount of time.
    Love the idea of the jammy, fruity bread pudding too! That would be great for dessert. We do get donated coffee, so the coffee bread pudding does sound wonderful!
    We do make the potato frittata, and yes, it sure is a crowd-pleaser.
    I've only tried to make meringue once, and it flopped :D We don't have electric mixers/ beaters, so it is would require a lot of hand-beating...maybe when we have extra volunteers ;)
    Muesli salad sounds good! We do get bags of grated carrot once in a while and could improvise with the seasonings.
    Thank you so much for taking the time to write in some great ideas, Anon! I appreciate it!

    Sreelu, if you are able to donate the extra food from your garden, you are ding something really special for those in need! They rarely get to eat anything that does not come out of a can.

    Bilbo, yes, we do make potato omelets, often with canned pre-cooked potatoes actually :) they do end up tasting really good! Like the addition of oregano!
    So how are you doing, my dear? Mail in sometime.

    Roopa, thanks :)

    Neelam, thanks!

  35. Cynthia, thanks so much!

    Coffee, waiting for the mail ;) just kidding...take your time!

    Pavani, CK is a huge success already...so many people being nourished from donated food. This is my small way of adding some more ideas to the mix :)

    Cathy, concepts are most welcome! Although, CK cooks are experts at scaling up recipes too :D

    Raaga, would love to know more about your volunteer work! Isn't it a lot of fun??
    My favorite thing in India: teaching street kids as part of "Aakanksha"...you may have heard of this org.

    ET, oh, I think once you are in that high-energy environment, with a task at hand, and a bunch of enthu people surrounding you, you will work just fine and love it too!

    Mamatha, thanks a lot!

  36. Nupur, you are a Truly Lovely Person (not to mention a fantastic food blogger!)! I really look forward to the day I can say that to you in person :)

  37. wonderful idea nupur...commend you on this project.....


  38. nupur, what u are doing is really wonderful. It makes life a lot more meaningful. I would do my best to help u out with ideas in my small way. count me in.

  39. Way to go gurlie....Its really important that everyone of us should realise some way of giving back to the society if we can. U rock.

  40. Independence day greetings, Nupur!
    Hop on over to my blog & check out the award waiting for ya!:-)

  41. Fruit cobbler
    Any canned fruit along with the juice
    Butter or margarine for greasing the surface and a decent amount for topping
    Cake mix or flour and oatmeal mixture.
    Cinnamon and or vanilla for flavor
    Butter for topping
    Open the canned fruit (peaches, fruit cocktail, pears) pour in the baking dish along with the juice
    Sprinkle some cinnamon or distribute a few drops of vanilla and stir the fruit to mix well. If you like any other flavoring you may add at this point.
    Sprinkle the contents of the cake mix or(* look below)over the fruit.
    Cut the butter or margarine in small pieces and distribute all over the cake mix (If you wish you may melt and pour the butter all over the surface).
    Bake in 350 degree oven till the topping is golden brown and thoroughly baked. Delicious!!!
    (*) 3/4 measure flour , 1/4 measure oats ,mix with a little cinnamon and spread over the fruit.
    A good combination is canned peaches and a can of cranberry relish on top spread sparingly to get a nice color contrast and tangy accent of taste. Do not use too much cranberry but just a little bit.
    Pineapple and cherry pie filling is the second favorite combination.
    For home cooks the above recipe is simple.One 28 oz can of peaches in syrup (light or heavy), 1 cake mix box 18 oz, and a stick of butter. I do not add any sugar. 1/4 tsp of cinnamon. Tastes great with icecream on top.

  42. As an anonymous poster said, Bread pudding is a superb use for bread. You can use very old and stale bread for it, and in fact, fresh fruit chopped into the pudding works really well. Chop apple finely and sprinkle between layers of bread, and add a good sprinkle of cinnamon. Banana bread pudding is also scrummy!

    Another use for sliced bread is to make pie or tartlet shells; flatten by rolling with a rolling pin and cut out rounds to line tartlet tins.

    If you have tinned fruit, summer pudding is lovely and takes no baking.

    Never underestimate the humble egg either; spanish omelettes and fritatas are perfect for using up random fresh or canned vegetables, and can be made in giant baking trays.

    Rice pudding is a delicious dessert, and can have chopped fruit in it to add nuggets of extra flavour.

    Risotto is also a truly useful dish for your menu. A cheese risotto can take pretty much any left over cheese you have. Mushroom risotto will work with both fresh or dried mushrooms.

    Note: if you don't use up all the vegies and they are going to go off, fry up onions, add the vegetables and boil them up to make vegetable stock. This can then be frozen in ice-cream containers for future recipes.

  43. Ooh, I forgot... french toast will use up your stale bread too, and can be served sprinkled with cinnamon sugar, or topped with caramalised apples.

    You can also do a savoury french toast, served with a ratatouille style topping.

  44. I can't stop myself now!

    Pasta bake is a great way to use up whatever you have handy. Boil pasta until cooked and then simply mix in one of the following saucy-things and then put an a lightly oiled oven tray and bake till set.

    Fry up an onion in oil/butter and then add flour, cook for a few minutes to make a roux, then add milk bit by bit to make a white sauce. You can add canned asparagus and corn to this (include the liquid from the can in with the milk to add extra flavour). Or fry mushrooms along with the onion to make a mushroom sauce.

    Fry an onion, add whatever chopped vegies you have and canned tomatoes or pasta sauce. If you simmer the vegetables for a decently long time they will breakdown to make a generic vegetable sauce, or if you cook them less then you will end up with nice chunks of veggies in the pasta bake.

    A nice chile can be made from simmering canned beans, canned tomatoes and canned corn with some spices. Serve on boiled rice. High in protein too.

  45. Hi Nupur, an old classic from the Joy of Cooking is tomato-cheese rice. Cook rice till almost done, but with some water in the pot. Open a can of Campbell's tomato soup (but any flavour can be substituted, I'm sure students have tonnes of these cans), add it to the rice for the last 5 minutes of cooking time. Stir through, add herbs, pepper, and grated cheese and a large pat of butter. The mixture of hot rice, pepper, grated cheese, and butter really disguises the canned soup taste.

    If you are looking for more low-cost menu options using stock US kitchen ingredients, the Joy of Cooking is a great source.

  46. Don't forget caramel custard as a great way to use up lots of eggs. A yummy no-fuss dessert.

    My aunt used to soak left-over slices of bread in a bit of milk or water (just for a bit), then place a spicy filling (leftover veggies, paneer, mushed peas, or corn, whatever she had at hand) on a slice, top it with another, press them together to seal, and trim the edges a bit. They were then dipped in egg, and then crushed cornflakes and fried. A delicious snack from leftovers. Baking should work too, if frying is too high-calorie.

  47. Nupur you are such an inspiration to all of us.

  48. Nupur, your work is such an inspiration!! I will surely send in some recipes, but would also love to see if there is a similar community kitchen in other cities where we can go and contribute with our time as well!

    Thank you again for this moving and inspiring post!!

  49. Hello Napur: I have been reading your blog for a month or so now, and have never "participated" only observed. However, this post about CK has compelled me to contribute. I think what you are doing is so admirable and I too have always wanted to cook for others. I have an idea for the abundance of left over bread, if you haven't already thought it.
    I don't eat much bread myself and always have bread going bad, so I take all the bread and dry it out completely. Then I make bread crumbs with it. You mentioned there are no food processors, but you can cut it coarsley with knives, or crumble between your hands or even put in a zip lock bag and crush with a rolling pin. I then add spices and herbs to the bread crumbs. I keep two airtight containers: seasoned and unseasoned breadcrumbs. These come in really handy when you need to make meatloaf or stretch out meat dishes. You can also use it to bread meat and vegetables or add to tops of casseroles for a crunchy topping: drizzle with a little butter or oil.
    I hope this is helpful and keep up the good work. I really enjoy your blogs.

  50. Hi Nupur,
    What a great project you are working on! I am very impressed. You are a true inspiration.

  51. what a worth cause! amazed and touched at the same time..

  52. Nupur I am so touched by this post. This is something I always wanted to do!Keep up the good work.Will think of some Ideas by then.We should start something similar here too..you are a great inspiration

  53. Shammi, what a truly lovely thing to say! When are you making your next trip to the US? :)

    Srivalli, Mallugirl, Pooja V, thanks!

    TBC, how sweet of you!

    Anon, this is a superb idea! We do have lots of cake mixes and canned fruit! You rock!

    Kiriel du Papillon, banana and apple bread pudding both sound great! We do have a lot of these fruits, and this would be a great way to use them up.
    What is summer pudding? A no-bake dessert would be good to know!
    Vegetable stock is a great idea for using odds and ends! We could then use it for cooking rice in.
    We do make sweet french toast a lot, but the idea of a savory french toast sounds so good!
    We do make pasta bakes a lot, but the chili sounds like fun! Must remember that for cooler weather! Thanks so much for your generous input!

    Anon, love love love the idea of the tomato-cheese rice!! We do have lots and lots of cans of tomato soup, as you can imagine. Also, thanks for the Joy of Cooking tip...will look for a cheap copy in a thrift store.
    Caramel custard is a bit difficult with the bain marie and everything. The bread snack sounds so delicious!

    Ashwini, thanks :)

    Dhana, I am 100% sure you will find a community kitchen near your home and I'm also sure you will enjoy the experience, if you choose to be a volunteer cook.

    Michele V, love the idea of the breadcrumbs! Yes, we could certainly smash them down with a heavy saucepan, in the absence of a food processor. Very useful tip...thanks so much! And I'm glad you like my blog :)

    this little mainyacha, Nags...thanks!

    Madhuli, NGOs are alive and thriving in India, and especially in a city like Pune. In fact, one of my favorite org. is working there: not in the field of hunger, but in the field of education of street children (just as worthy a cause):

  54. I find scarcity for words for the work you are doing Nupur, Its really such motivating to read such things about one can do while in US.

    I really appreciate your volunteering effort in the CK n wish I was also living close by. You are doing a great job and its an eyeopening to read that hunger exists in US ans that too in older people...really moved by reading it. I am so proud to know you as a fellow blogger. Hats off to you girl!

    Happy Independence day to you too, will definitely try to contribute whatever I can from my side.

  55. Hats off to you Nupur! You're a wonderful person. For someone to take time off in their hectic life to do something like this and give back to the society is commendable!
    Good luck to u and to CK!
    Hope u had a great Independence day!

  56. Very inspirational Nupur.....Many have ideas ..but implementing them is again another part....Kudos...U did that....
    I have lots of similar ideas too...don't really know when wud they come to fruition....:-)
    Happy Independence day dear :-)

  57. Nupur you are doing outstanding work for a good cause. I am so proud of you. You do have a heart of gold.
    One needs to have courage and selfless nature to be able to do volunteering.
    Nupur you have inspired us all:)
    Hugs to you :)

  58. Pat on ur back Nupur!! U manage to do SO much !!! U are an inspiration to all of us! I'm glad I met u thru blogging.. there is a lot to learn from u!

  59. Congrats, you received an award, check my blog for details...

  60. Hi Nupur,

    I have always admired your blog and this is most commendable one. I do have a recipe

    Vege Bread Toast

    Onion Chopped Finely
    Tomato chopped Finely
    Jalapenos Chopped Finely
    Sooji/Wheat Flour/Maida - need this as a binding agent
    Milk a few tbsp

    1. Mix all the vegetable ,salt,pepper,Sooji and Milk
    2. Spread this mixture on Bread
    3. Spread some oil/butter in a griddle.
    4. Place the bread with the vege mixture down in the griddle
    5.Roast both sides and ready to serve

    Also you mentioned that you have lots of canned soups. You can use them as a substitute for milk.

    I hope I am clear in expressing my recipe.This is a pretty simple recipe.


  61. Sonal, that is such a delicious way to spice up old bread! Thanks for sharing a great idea!

  62. I found a good way of using left over cornflakes (unsweetened), We can make any fritters of vegetables or meat, cut it in bit size pieces per portion which needed little time to cook, marinate it with desire (use practically anything from salt, chilly, caper, herbes, pickled spices, vinegar, sugar and God knows what) it should just taste right.
    Use a binder (flour, egg, starch) and roll in handcrushed cornflakes to give the coating.
    This cornflake coating is very appealing if fried quickly, and very crunchy even when allowed to rest for longer time period in Chaffing dishes/hot case.

  63. Nupur dear,
    I am touched by reading about this. This is such a great work u are doing. I shall surely think of something to add to your work (I should confess that my kitchen work has till now been confined to Indian-especially SouthIndian culinary only which may not be helpful there) and pass it on to you. You are just great!!!

  64. Hats of to you Nupur. Wonderful service you are doing. GOD BLESS YOU. I will try to help local food bank,etc as much as I can.


  65. Aloha Nupur:

    I've got a few ideas for you from my own experience with feeding lots of people with limited ingredients.

    1. Savory bread pudding. Soak stale bread in a mix of milk and eggs for at least 30 minutes. Once the bread is good and soggy, mix in any chopped vegetables (fresh, frozen or canned) that you have around. You can also add chopped meat or fish if you have some around. (Canned is fine to use.) Season with whatever you have on hand. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top if you have it. Bake, covered with foil, at 400 for about 30 minutes or until it's puffy. Take off the foil and keep baking for about 5 - 10 minutes until the top is golden brown. This is a good way to use ingredients that you have just a little bit of.

    2. You can toss spinach and salad greens that are a little too wilted to be served raw into stir fry to bulk up the recipe and add some flavor. Chop coarsely and put them in right before the end.

    3. Quiche. Make a simple oil crust (oil, flour and cold water). Lay the crust in pie pans, fill about 1/3 full with any veggies you have handy. Beat eggs with a little milk and pour on top of the veggies. Use 3 - 4 eggs and about 1/3 cup of milk for each 9" pie pan. Bake at 450 for about 30 mins until the eggs are set and the quiche is puffy.

  66. Wow Nupur that is a really good use of time. Yes and this side also exsists. Try this just chopped veggies in a mayo or yogurt dressing filled between bread. grill them sometimes.

    Sometimes just veggies in yougurt as a side.

    Grilled fruit like pineapples, pears, drizzled with sugar.

    I'll think of some more.

  67. Dear Nupur, what a wonderful way to spend your time....i could barely keep a dry eye...will mail you if i can think of something...good luck and cheers!!


  68. Hi Nupur ! kudos to you on the wonderful way that you are spending extra time :) I am sorry I am cutting it so late ..I know you wanted suggestions before the 25th of the month...but the antics of a 15 month old keep me on my toes...well here goes...a black bean corn salad can be made very easily...Combine a can of black beans, a can of corn, 1 diced red onion and a cucumber for added crunch. Serve it up with a dressing of balsamic vinegar, olive oil, cumin powder(optional), salt and black pepper to taste. The seasonings can be adjusted.This recipe can be easily adapted to yield a large number of servings ! hope this helps ...and oh...if balsamic vinegar is not available, lime juice and a pinch of sugar will work just fine :)

  69. Girl, I'm so moved by your post. Thanks for the inspiration, Nupur.


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