Last week, I visited the Capital Area Food Bank of Texas with several other Austin food bloggers. We’re all participating in a week-long project to bring awareness to hunger in Central Texas. Our local food bank works with 355 partner agencies which distribute food to people in need. Since one year ago, our local food bank saw a 60% increase in needs. Currently, over 48,000 people rely on this food bank each week. The goal of the CAFB is to assist anyone with food hardship problems and to provide a positive way for people to take care of their health with nourishing food. Families or individuals are able to visit a food pantry once per month, and we were given a list of what is typically received:
2 cans spaghetti sauce
4 cans veggies (choice of green beans and/or corn)
4 cans fruit (choice of sliced pears and/or mixed fruit)
1 meat selection: whole chicken, beef roast, pork chops, or possibly pig trotters or ham
3 drink items: choice of large bottle of cranberry apple juice and/or powdered milk (shelf stable milk) boxes and/or apple juice boxes
1 bag spaghetti or bag of egg noodles
1 bag of pinto beans or white navy beans
1 bag of white rice
1 package of pickled jalapeno slices
1 ready-made dinner (hamburger helper)
1 bag/container of rolled oats
1 bag of cheerios
5 lb bag of potatoes
Additionally, many people also participate in food stamp programs. Several of our Austin famers’ markets can now accept debit cards and food stamps from the Women, Infant, and Children (WIC) Farmers Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) or food stamp (Lone Star: SNAP) programs. We learned that applying for food stamps is time consuming and challenging with a 22-page application that needs to be re-submitted every three months. A maximum benefit is about $200 per month. By blogging about the CAFB, we’re hoping to raise Hunger Awareness and encourage donations of food, money, or time to local food banks. On Saturday May 8 in central Texas, the US Postal Service will be collecting food donations for Stamp Out Hunger, and all of the food collected here is used locally.
Each of the local bloggers involved has taken a different approach to this project, and everyone involved is listed on the CAFB blog. I wanted to cook a big, healthy meal with some ingredients that would be part of a monthly food pantry pick-up and some that could be easily found at a farmers’ market. The items from the list above that immediately jumped out at me were the beans, rice, and pickled jalapenos. At the risk of heading straight for the dreaded, hippie-food territory, the fact is that 'beans and rice' is comfort food for me. I wanted to include a healthy green vegetable as well and make a meal that would produce lots of leftovers. I’m not sure if these are collards-enchiladas or southwest-cabbage rolls. I’ve made cabbage rolls a lot of different ways using standard green cabbage, napa cabbage, and leaves from different greens like chard, broccoli greens, and collards. I like using collards because the leaves are usually big and somewhat round. I’ve made more traditional rolls with tomato, lemon, and dill sauce. I’ve made them with ground turkey, I’ve used brown rice, and I’ve made them before with the same filling used here. Cooked pinto beans, rice, and shredded monterey jack cheese were on the inside, and the sauce was a puree of simmered anchos, onion, and tomato.
Admittedly, I made this more complicated than it needed to be, but let’s pretend that was just to show the possibilities. It's somewhat labor-intensive, but a few steps can be prepared a day or two in advance. Also, while I did make a sauce from scratch, a prepared enchilada sauce would work just as well. I cooked the pinto beans a day in advance, and I added half of a large, sweet, Texas onion and a few dried chipotles to the water as the beans cooked. The chipotles gave the beans a hint of smokiness and a little spice. The rice could have been made a day or two early as well. I roasted poblano chiles to add to the rice, and I stirred in some chopped cilantro from my garden, but it could have been left plain. For the ancho sauce, I sauteed the other half of that sweet onion, chopped of course, and then added seeded and chopped dried anchos and two chopped tomatoes. After that simmered with water long enough for the chiles to re-hydrate, I pureed the mixture until smooth and added lime juice.
I served the rolls with pickled jalapeno and pickled carrots on top with a little extra finely grated cheese. From three cups of cooked beans, one cup of rice, and one half pound of cheese, I made 20 rolls and still had some leftover rice. Not only did we have a healthy dinner full of spicy flavors and melty cheese, we also have several lunches covered for this week and a few rolls in the freezer for another time.
Pinto Bean and Poblano Rice Collard Greens Rolls with Ancho Sauce
3 c cooked pinto beans
1 c white or brown rice
3 poblano chiles, roasted, cleaned, seeded, and chopped
3 tablespoons cilantro leaves, chopped
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus more for baking dishes
4 ancho chiles, stemmed, seeded, and roughly chopped
2 fresh tomatoes, cored and chopped
1/2 large, sweet onion, roughly chopped
1/2 pound Monterey jack cheese, grated
20 large collard greens leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
- In a small saucepan, bring two cups water to a boil, add rice, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until rice is tender, about 20 minutes. Turn off heat and let rice sit for 10 minutes. Place rice in a large bowl and fold in chopped, roasted poblanos and cilantro. Set aside.
- For the sauce, heat vegetable oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add chopped onion and cook until tender and just starting to brown. Season with salt and pepper. Add chopped anchos, tomatoes, and one cup water. Reduce heat to low, cover pan, and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes or until anchos are tender. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Transfer mixture to a blender, add juice of one lime, and puree until very smooth. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed.
-Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F.
-Bring a large pan of water to a boil. Place collard greens leaves, a few at a time, into the boiling water. You can hold them by the stem and leave the stem sticking up out of the water. Let the leaves boil for about one minute until softened. Transfer to a sheet pan and repeat with all leaves. Let the leaves sit on the sheet pan until cool enough to handle.
- Coat two baking dishes with vegetable oil. Pour half of the ancho sauce into each baking dish.
- Place a collard leaf on a cutting board and cut away the thick part of the stem. The stems can be chopped and cooked for another dish, but they’re not needed here. Place a big spoonful of rice in the center of the widest part of the leaf. Top the rice with a big spoonful of beans, and then add some grated cheese. Fold in the leaf on each side and roll into a bundle and set the rolled bundle into the sauce in a baking dish. Repeat with all leaves. The pans I used fit 10 rolls each.
- Cover the baking dishes with foil, and bake until warmed through, about 20 to 30 minutes. Serve with sauce from the pan, a little more grated cheese, and pickled jalapenos.