Wednesday, August 31, 2011

How Volunteering at a Food Pantry Aided My Discovery of the Best Tasting Laxative

Every first and third Thursday of the month I have the privilege of spending my afternoon at the Jars of Hope Food Pantry in Gap, PA cooking up some goodies for the folks who come to use the pantry. What I’m doing there isn’t saving lives or curing AIDS or wiping out any of the serious injustices plaguing our world today. Nope, it’s just me hanging out with some people who are in a rough spot and need a little encouragement…and food.

My goal in cooking for them is to show them how to use some of the items they will get at the pantry that day to make a tasty, semi-healthy meal or snack. Example: they get figs, I show them how to make homemade fig bars (okay, so those aren’t actually healthy but everyone needs a treat now and then); they get ground turkey, cranberry sauce, and zuchinni, I make them a recipe for sweet and sour turkey with veggies.

I really love it. There is an element of “Iron Chef” about it that keeps it a challenge, especially when Heather (the director of the pantry) hands me a bag of prunes and says “Can you do make a recipe with these?” But the challenge isn’t what gets my pots and pans over there twice a month; it’s the people I meet that brings me back.

I can walk in those doors frustrated with the pile of laundry I have sitting at home or the orange-tinted rings forming in my neglected toilet bowls or the stinky attitude of my 8 year old, but when I start talking to people as they sample my recipes while waiting to be called into the pantry, suddenly none of those other things matter. I have the honor of hearing another human being’s story, of sharing in their life, if only for 5 minutes; that feeds my soul like no smorgasboard can.

The side benefit is that I occasionally hit a recipe that becomes a favorite in my household as well as the homes of those we serve at the pantry. One of those recipes I’ve included below, and yes, my dear friends, it’s got prunes in it.

Secret Ingredient Chocolate Chip Cookies

12 prunes, pureed in a food processor or blender with 3 tbsp. hot water
3 tbsp. butter, softened
¾ c. white sugar
¾ c. brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. whole wheat flour
1 ½ c. white flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 ½ c. chocolate chips

In a large mixing bowl, beat together pureed plums, butter, sugars, eggs, and vanilla. Add flours, baking soda, and salt to plum mixture and beat to combine. Stir in chocolate chips. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 8-10 minutes.

My kids LOVE these cookies. But I will warn you to use caution when consuming them; our household usage of toilet paper goes up considerably when these babies are around. On the flip side, if you’re feeling a little stopped up, dig in.

If any of you fellow cooks out there live in the vicinity of Gap, PA and would like to get involved in the cooking demos I do at the pantry, please contact me at It’s a great outreach and I get to serve with an awesome group of volunteers; we’d love to have you join us!

1 comment:

  1. LOVE IT!! And love your spirit, Mai - you truly inspire me!
    Thanks for sharing this. I needed it! ( :