Hi everyone. My name is Michelle Klahr and I’m an MBA student at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. I’m spending this summer in between the two years of my MBA program working as an intern at New Foundry Ventures, specifically dedicated to their Get Cooking! project. When I heard about this year’s Slow Food National Day of Action—preparing meals for under $5—I thought Get Cooking! could help provide some ideas for what to cook at a low cost.
The mission of New Foundry Ventures is to create and support the next generation of social enterprises that leverage scale to improve the well-being of low-income people and communities. One problem New Foundry is currently focused on is the food access challenges low-income communities face. “Food insecure communities” or “food deserts” are areas where many residents live one-mile or more from a grocery store, and often lack access to a car or direct public transportation. Residents of these communities are forced to buy groceries at corner and liquor stores, which often lack fresh produce and charge much higher prices for healthy food than large supermarkets. A solution to this problem New Foundry Ventures is currently testing and piloting is called Get Cooking! Our Get Cooking! pilots in the community of West Oakland, CA have been led by a partnership of New Foundry Ventures and two West Oakland not-for-profits: People’s Grocery , a food advocacy non-profit, and LifeLong Medical Care, a “safety net” provider of medical services to the uninsured and underserved.
Get Cooking! is a social enterprise dedicated to helping low-income families living in food deserts make healthy eating simple, affordable, and fun in order to lower rates of obesity and diet-related diseases, and improve overall well-being. To do this, Get Cooking! operates meal preparation clubs where community members meet with a chef to prepare and purchase nutritious, ready-to-cook, low-cost meals for their families in a community kitchen pre-stocked with fresh and healthy foods. While preparing the meals, members gain valuable cooking skills as well as nutrition, health, and food justice education. Members leave with a quick, easy, and affordable dinner alternative to fast food. Our hypothesis on how to make healthy eating a part of daily life is that we must address more than just physical access to food and find a solution that considers affordability, time constraints, food preparation knowledge, and eating habits, all while building connecting among community members in a social environment.
Obviously affordable and healthy recipes are a key part of the Get Cooking! model. For this year’s Day of Action, we’d love to share two of our dinner recipes that can easily be made under the $5 per person price ceiling. We hope these recipes inspire you. If you end up cooking them, let us know by commenting on our blog!
Summer Vegetable Lasagna*
Prep Time: 50 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Pricing: When we made this recipe, and shopped at Trader Joe’s and Bi-Rite Market, pricing came out to ~$2.55 per serving
-1 pound box lasagna noodles, preferably whole wheat
(*can substitute gluten-free brown rice noodles)
-1 batch Summer Vegetable Sauce (see below)
-1 batch Pesto (see below)
-1 pound bag frozen spinach
-1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (*optional)
Summer Vegetable Sauce
-2 tablespoons olive oil
-3 large cloves garlic, chopped
-1/2 large red onion, diced
-4 bell peppers, diced
-2 mild chili peppers (e.g., anaheim), diced
-2 large eggplants, diced
-4 portobello mushrooms, diced
-1 750 gram box or can chopped tomatoes
-1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
-1 bunch basil
-1 bunch flat leaf parsley
-2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
-4 ounces parmesan cheese, grated (*optional)
-1/2 cup walnut halves
-1/2 cup pine nuts
-1 teaspoon ground black pepper
-1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
-1 cup extra virgin olive oil
-Prepare the lasagna noodles: place noodles in a 9”x13” baking dish. Cover with boiling water and let soak for 30 minutes.
Make the pesto: combine ingredients in food processor. Process until well blended.
-Defrost the frozen spinach according to the package directions. Drain of any excess water and mix with pesto.
Make the sauce:
Heat the olive oil and garlic in a large (12”) skillet over medium flame. When the garlic begins to bubble, add the onion and sauté for a few minutes, until softened.
-Add the peppers and chilies to the pan, and sauté for a few minutes to soften.
-Add the eggplant, mushrooms, chopped tomatoes, and salt. Stir to combine everything, turn heat down to medium-low, cover skillet, and let simmer for 30 minutes, until eggplant is thoroughly cooked. Transfer half of sauce into blender and blend. Add blended sauce back to veggie mixture to create a chunky sauce.
Prepare packaged meal:
-Ladle a cup of the Summer Vegetable Sauce evenly over the bottom of the dish.
-Place a layer of lasagna noodles on top of the sauce. You may have to cut them to fit.
-Spread a layer of pesto spinach over the noodles and then add another layer of noodles. Ladle on a few cups of the sauce. Add another layer of noodles. Repeat until the pan is full and all noodles are used.
-Top lasagna with grated Parmesan cheese.
-To cook, preheat oven to 375°. Bake for 45 minutes, until browned on top. Cool for 30 minutes before slicing.
* Adapted from Operagirlcooks.com recipe
Vegetarian Stuffed Peppers*
Servings: about 4
Prep Time: 50 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Pricing: We priced out this recipe to cost approximately $1.50 per serving
-4 whole bell peppers (any color)
-1 Tablespoon olive oil
-1 onion, chopped
-1 clove garlic, minced
-1 teaspoon oregano
-1 teaspoon basil
-2 carrots, julienned
-1 cup peas, fresh or frozen
-1 tomato, diced
-1/2 cup walnuts, finely chopped
-1 1/2 cups cooked brown rice
-2 to 3 cup tomato sauce
-Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
-Bring rice and water to a boil in a small saucepan over high heat. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer at the lowest bubble until the water is absorbed and the rice is tender, 30 to 50 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand, covered, for 10 minutes.
-Wash and clean peppers. Cut off tops and remove seeds and membrane. Place prepared peppers on steamer rack in wok or Dutch oven and steam 3 to 4 minutes.
-Heat oil in large skillet, add onion and garlic. Sauté 1 minute. Add herbs, carrots and peas. Continue to cook 3 to 5 minutes or until carrots are tender, stirring constantly.
-Reduce heat and add the tomato, walnuts, brown rice and 1/2 cup tomato sauce. Heat through.
Stuff mixture into whole peppers.
-Spread 1/2 cup sauce in bottom of baking dish. Stand peppers upright. Pour remaining sauce over the tops of peppers.
-Bake in oven for 30 minutes
* Adapted from Cooks.com recipe
Optional: add ground beef or turkey to the rice mixture for a non-vegetarian variation