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Food pantry booklet offers healthy recipes for those with no kitchen

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Eating healthy foods isn’t always easy, even when you have a stove to cook on.

But what if you’re living in a motel room?

That’s the case for many of the clients served by the Loaves and Fishes Food Pantry in Front Royal, one of the pantries operated by Catholic Charities’ St. Lucy Project, which distributes food throughout the Arlington Diocese. Loaves and Fishes serves about 300 to 400 people a week; it also is the western hub for diocesan food distribution, according to Jeanne Jackson, pantry manager.

To help encourage clients to eat better, she started searching for health-minded recipes that were easy to make — so easy that they could be assembled with the kinds of limited kitchen equipment that one could use in a motel — a microwave, small coffee maker, maybe a hot plate or crockpot. 

“We’ve always tried to push healthier foods and encourage people to cook instead of buying fast food or prepared meals, which are so high in sodium,” said Jackson. 

She started handing out recipes more than a year ago. Now she and her colleagues have compiled them into a simple booklet, the “Loaves and Fishes Recipe Book,” which can be printed out and easily distributed. “The reality is that not everyone has access to the means of cooking required for traditional food preparation,” notes the introduction.

Front Royal is a high-poverty area that has been hit hard by the opioid crisis, said Catherine Hassinger, director of community services for Catholic Charities of the Arlington Diocese. “Many of the clients are homeless or precariously housed.” Jackson came up with the idea for a recipe book after “talking with pantry clients and identifying the challenges they might have,” Hassinger said. 

Jackson enlisted volunteer Maureen Watts, a registered dietitian from Culpeper, to evaluate recipes and adapt them by adding a few ideas of her own. They also have had occasional recipe-tasting events, Jackson said, “to build up an enthusiasm for making healthier foods.”

The recipe book includes several breakfast options, such as no-cook oatmeal with yogurt; homemade granola, hard- or soft-boiled eggs cooked in a coffeemaker, and scrambled eggs made in a coffee mug in the microwave.

For lunch or dinner, there’s no-cook Texas caviar (recipe below); baked lentils and brown rice made in a toaster oven or crockpot; Italian wedding soup with meatballs made on a hot plate or crockpot, and more.

There are even several innovative desserts, including white bean cookie dough dip, brownie batter dip made with black beans, and baked apples with cinnamon and raisins, which can be made in a toaster oven, microwave or crockpot.

Many involve no cooking at all. “Some of the recipes are very, very easy — like ‘Open the can and dump,’ ” Jackson said.

She knows some clients are not going to change long-ingrained habits, but she hopes others, such as young moms who are “exhausted and too tired to cook” will be inspired to think outside the mac and cheese box and try some of the book’s healthy, easy recipes with their children’s nutrition in mind. 

At the pantry, “we work hard to get fresh vegetables and fruits,” she said. Clients “can take all the vegetables and fruits they want.” 


Texas Caviar

From the ‘Loaves and Fishes Recipe Book,’ St. Lucy Food Project, a program of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington. 


1 15-oz. can of black beans, rinsed and drained (or any other bean!)

1 15-oz. can black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained (or any other bean!)

1 15-oz. can pinto beans, rinsed and drained (or any other bean!)

1 15-oz. can corn, drained and rinsed, OR 1 cup frozen corn

4 Roma tomatoes, diced, OR 1 15-oz. can diced tomatoes, drained 

½ cup chopped onion

1 bell pepper, diced

½ cup chopped fresh cilantro OR parsley OR basil

1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and chopped (optional)

No-cook directions

Mix all ingredients, add dressing (below) and allow to sit at least two hours. Keep refrigerated.

This versatile dish can be enjoyed on its own or used as a salsa with tortilla chips, in a whole wheat wrap with a handful of fresh spinach or added to a salad.


1/3 cup oil

2 T. vinegar

2 T. lime juice

1 tsp. salt

½ tsp. black pepper

1 tsp. cumin

1 tsp. chili powder

Alternate dressing

¾ cup red wine vinaigrette

1 tsp. salt

½ tsp. black pepper

1 tsp. cumin

1 tsp. chili powder

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2020