Thursday, June 02, 2011

Food for the Soul

In the movie, "Pay it Forward", Haley Joel Osment plays a young boy who, inspired by a teacher (played by Kevin Spacey), commits to trying to make the world a better place. You'll need to watch the movie or read a review for more detail but, suffice it to say that Osment's character seems to sincerely want to help others, purely for the joy of doing so. It's a wonderful perspective, even a biblical one. Unfortunately, I'd be lying if I claimed that's why I volunteer my time or gelt.

I've volunteered for a number of charities over the years, including the local food pantry, as a reader of textbooks for the blind or those with learning disabilities, at the local homeless shelter, and as a e-mentor for an IBM program called Mentorplace. My choice of charities reflect both my own comfort level (e.g. my educational background, reading ability, love of cooking, etc) and a desire to improve the world my family and I live in, and the world my daughter and other young people will inherit. Still, it's the way volunteering makes me feel that is likely my driving factor. It's all about me, me, me after all... Which certainly isn't something to brag about, but I'd be a complete hypocrite if I claimed I was earning my way to paradise. As it is, I'd be happy for a window air conditioner in Hell. ;-)

Which brings me to the events of the day, and the inspiration for this blog. As a volunteer cook for the local shelter, I spend a few hours each month shopping for ingredients and preparing a dish to feed ten to twelve people (the shelter typically has fifty to seventy clients, but a number of other volunteers prepare dishes as well). Some months it's a salad, other months it's a dessert... And tonight it was a main dish... A rather labor intensive main dish (approximately three hours of preparation/cooking time, not counting shopping or delivery). Still, I felt pretty good about myself all the way to the shelter and in the car after... Until I drove past all of the clients standing outside of the shelter on my way home. Young and old, men and women just like you and me... People who, but for the grace of God, could be us.

If anything I've written here inspires someone to volunteer, that's wonderful. As a matter of fact, that's how I rationalize sharing the news of my volunteer work. I've often said that it's possible someone might read or otherwise hear about something I've done and decide to step to the plate themselves... As there are far more people in need than there are volunteers to meet those needs. The truth is, though, that I share what I do because that makes me feel good as well... Which, again, may not earn me that window air conditioner in Hell I'm striving for, but at least it's honest... Dammit. ;-)

That said, and without further ado, here's what I prepared for tonight's shelter meal... Which I sincerely hope the clients enjoyed, at least as much as I enjoyed making it.....

Tim's Teriyaki Stir-Fry over Confetti Rice*


Chicken & Stock:
2 lbs. chicken thighs
2 lbs. chicken breast halves
8 cups water
2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1/2 tsp. thyme
2 carrots, sliced
4 celery stalks, sliced
1/2 large sweet onion, quartered
4 bay leaves
1/8 c. reduced sodium teriyaki sauce

Confetti Rice
1/2 large sweet onion, diced
1 red sweet pepper, diced
5 1/4 c. chicken stock[see above]
3 c. Uncle Ben's brown rice, uncooked
3 tblsp. Fleishman's unsalted/lactose-free margarine

Teriyaki Stir Fry
PAM cooking spray
1 & 1/2 large sweet onions, halved & quartered (e.g. bite-sized)
2 green bell peppers, cut into 1"-1.5" pieces (e.g. bite-sized)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 fresh pineapple, sans skin or core, cut into
1"-1.5" pieces (e.g. bite-sized)
+3 lbs. parboiled/marinated chicken[see above], cut into 1"-1.5" pieces (e.g. bite-sized)
1/8 c. reduced sodium teriyaki sauce
1/8 c. reduced sodium soy sauce
1/8 c. sesame oil

Directions (Day One):
Combine all the "Chicken and Stock" ingredients except the teriyaki in a pot, bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer for thirty minutes. Remove from heat, strain and refrigerate chicken stock, discard all other non-chicken ingredients, remove chicken skin, remove chicken from bones (preferable in bite-sized pieces), and discard chicken skin and bones. Place parboiled chicken pieces in a container or bag, add teriyaki sauce, and allow to marinate overnight.

Directions (Day Two):
Remove the chilled chicken stock from the refrigerator, skim the solidified fat off the top, discard or set aside any stock in excess of 5 1/4 cups, then combine with the rest of the "Confetti Rice" ingredients. Bring to a boil and then simmer for approximately thirty minutes (or until all moisture is absorbed by the rice). When done, pour into the bottom of a large, foil lasagna pan.

With fifteen minutes left on the rice timer, liberally coat a large skillet or wok with PAM cooking spray and place over medium-high to high heat until you can smell the oil and it's slightly changed color. Throw in the onion, bell pepper, and garlic, and cook, stirring constantly, until the bell pepper is slightly tender and the onion is just starting to get translucent (approximately four to six minutes). Add in the rest of the ingredients and cook, stirring constantly, until the sauce starts to thicken or the pineapple starts to cook (approximately four to six minutes). Pour over rice and serve (or cover in foil, deliver, place in warmer, and serve within the hour).

Serves ten to twelve.

* NOTE: The "Chicken and Stock" step of this recipe is largely based on Better Homes & Garden's "Stewed Chicken" recipe.

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Blogger Loralynn said...

My sister-in-law believes there is no such thing as purely altruistic motives. Do we get something out of doing nice things for others? A pat on the back, a moment of recognition or just self satisfaction. Of course, but that is not the main reason. It's to help or be nice to others. It's about spreading a little joy in the world. Many of the little things I do never come back to me by way of recognition and those are the best ones. In my opinion, altruistic. Nice post!

June 3, 2011 at 5:00 AM  
Blogger Kevin L Nenstiel said...

After all the effort in the world to improve myself, I've come to the conclusion that we find ourselves most truly fulfilled when we turn our attention to others.

June 3, 2011 at 7:19 AM  

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