“Burst the Bubble—Hunger is an Epidemic”
We live in these domes of comfort. Figurative stadiums where fellow fans gather to rally behind their favorite teams and to support of our shared passions. Together we define invisible boundaries between them and us. Walls providing blind comfort to the members of our communities from the monsters beyond the perimeter. These are the bubbles we live in. Sociological phenomena we have complacency and familiarity to thank for. It’s these same bubbles that MAZON, myself and the rest of us foodies fighting hunger are trying to burst.
Many of us—myself included—live our lives with the assurance that there will always be food in the fridge, that we’ll have snacks at the office, or that we’ll have the cash we need to place a last minute to-go order at the swipe of a screen. And yet crossing our paths day in and day out, are those of us who are less fortunate. Millions of American adults, children, seniors, and veterans who don’t look homeless, or even emaciated, are unsure of where their next meal will come from. And for those fortunate enough to be working or have qualified for federal assistance programs like SNAP, the vouchers are often insufficient to buy enough nutritious food for themselves and their families.
Wanting to focus on this disparity between the haves and the have-nots, and to get my friends and family thinking about it too, is why I accepted the $5 food challenge from Jewhungry food blogger Whitney Fisch. I figured it’s a chance to step outside my comfort zone. To take the road less traveled and use my creativity in the kitchen to unlock some culinary secrets to delicious nutritious food that won’t break the bank.
Well…as many of you know, I like to eat—a lot! And living in one of the culinary capitols of the world doesn’t help with my indulgence. Considering how much we spend on food, I didn’t think it would be easy to prepare a complete meal for less than $5 per person, though the idea of spending a few bucks on a well-balanced and TASTY meal almost seemed necessary considering how extravagant dinner for two in San Francisco can be these days.
The process was unique. Rather than walk through the grocery store and grab whatever tickled my fancy (aka tiny jars of expensive stuff), I was looking at the price tags. I was shocked to see how affordable frozen vegetables can be. How inexpensive chicken can be if you’re willing to forgo the breasts for the dark meat. My goal was to make it well-balanced, and yet comforting and filling, qualities I typically want in a meal; and yet I had to stay within budget. And that’s when I remembered one of my favorite childhood meals—apricot chicken with rice pilaf and peas.
Growing up my mother used to make her apricot chicken recipe every few weeks. It was one of her go-to staples, because it’s easy, and the sweet and savory apricot sauce was something us kids couldn’t get enough of. I grabbed all the ingredients and tallied my bill, and was surprised to see I could make a dinner for 5-6 people for $17. I know!
This $5 recipe throw down caused me to stop and think about the many poverty stricken kids that don’t have a fondness for, or memory of, meals like apricot chicken. It got me wondering whether they’ll have any warm childhood memories of food when they’re older, and I got teary-eyed to think that some people might grow to only tolerate food rather than love it like I do, because for them, food is a reminder of what they didn’t have, what they were deprived of, and what caused them so much pain. Where as for me, and so many others, food is a happy experience bringing communities together for celebration and reflection. It brings me joy and comfort.
Bubbles are a funny phenomenon. They’re physically imbued with hermetic precision and yet all it takes is the gentlest touch and they burst. Well consider this my gentle touch, a nudge if you will from me to you. Let’s do away with all the hollow compassion and lack of understanding for what it’s like to walk in the shoes of another. Whether it’s your intention to stay inside your bubble, because it’s comfortable, and safe; or you’re just being complacent—the world beyond the bubble needs your help.
The next meal you make at home for yourself, your family, or friends should cost no more than $5 per person. By taking this challenge, you’ll be reminded (like I was) of how far a few bucks can go, which is what MAZON and other organizations hope to be able to give to the millions of American and Israelis suffering from hunger.
For more information about what MAZON is up to, please visit their Reality of Hunger page. Read about the 8 Myths of Hunger (some will surprise you) and meet some of the people who look and sound just like you and me who are struggling to find meals from one day to the next.
Beyond the comfort of our daily routines there’s an epidemic of hunger growing. Did you know 1 in 7 Americans struggle with hunger? Here are a few more stats:
- 48.1 million Americans struggle with hunger. That’s equivalent to the entire population of California and New York City.
- 15.3 million American children struggle with hunger
- 5.4 million seniors are food insecure, which means they don’t have a reliable access to sufficient quantities of nutritious food
- 1 in 5 Israelis live below the poverty line
- 60% of SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) participants are children, seniors or disabled
- 5% of households in California are food insecure
- 4% of households in New York are food insecure
To help us raise awareness of this growing epidemic, please share this post with your family and friends. Take the $5 food challenge and leave us a comment about how it went. Tweet us or send us a picture on Facebook so we can share your $5 meals too! And when you’re done with that, challenge someone you know to do the same. Together we can make a difference in the lives of strangers. Or at least do it because you know you haven’t performed a mitzvah in awhile and you’re due for one.
You can also tell Congress to end hunger for military families now, by signing this petition.
Apricot Chicken Recipe with Rice Pilaf and Peas
*recipe serves 5 people and total cost of meal was $16.61 ($3.32 per serving)
- Value pack of chicken thighs and drumsticks with skin and bone (or 6 of eeach)
- 16 oz jar of apricot preserves
- 1 bottle of Wishbone Thousand Island salad dressing
- 1 packet of Liptons onion soup mix
- Cup of water
- 1 bag of frozen peas
- 2 boxes of rice pilaf
Preheat the oven to 350°
You can use chicken breast for this dish if you’d like, but I’ve always found the darker thigh and leg meat holds up better to the long cooking time. That being said, chicken thighs and legs typically have some pockets of fat that should be trimmed and the value packs you find at the grocery store are as inexpensive as they are because the butcher isn’t closely trimming every piece. So it’s a minute or two of extra work.
The first thing I do is remove any excess skin from the chicken thighs and pull off any globs of fat around the edges and underside that I can easily cut away or even just pull off with my fingers. There’s typically more fat on these cuts of meat than you need/want in the dish.
Arrange all the thighs and drumsticks in a Pyrex or any oven-safe casserole dish you like. You want the dish large enough so the meat is snug inside but not too tightly packed.
In a medium mixing bowl, combine the jar of apricot preserves, the bottle of Thousand Island dressing, 1 cup of water, and the contents of one Lipton Onion Soup packet. Don’t worry if there’s a little bit of jam left in the jar, or dressing left in the bottle. You really can’t screw this dish up. Whisk everything together until combined and then pour the apricot mixture over the chicken reserving about a cup.
Work the sauce over all the chicken meat and down and around the pieces so that they’re completely covered in the sauce. Use more of the reserved sauce if you need.
Place the pan on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 55-60 mins. If you can, you should baste the chicken with the pan juices 2-3 times while it bakes, but it’s not necessary.
About halfway through the apricot chicken’s baking time, you can start the rice pilaf. I grew up using Near East rice pilaf so that’s my go-to, but you can make this with any rice pilaf or plain rice you can get your hands on.
About 10 minutes before you’re ready to sit down to dinner, steam the green peas. I found all grocery stores now carry the frozen bags of peas that you can just pop in the microwave and steam in their packaging. Once it was done, I cut open the bag and emptied it in a serving dish. You can steam in a pot on the stove if you prefer.
After 55-60 mins you’re going to turn the broiler on high and broil the tops of the chicken pieces for 3-5 mins until the chicken skin starts to char and blacken.
Using tongs, remove the cooked apricot chicken pieces from the dish and arrange on plates or a platter. Pour the remaining juices into a fat separator and use some of the jus as your sauce over the chicken, rice and peas.
If you wanted to thicken the sauce, you could create a slurry with some corn starch and water and add that to the reserved sauce heating on medium high in a sauce pot. Whisk for a few minutes and it will thicken slightly. But this isn’t necessary as the juice is good as it is and the rice soaks it up.
Check out some of the other $5 recipes my fellow foodies fighting hunger published to help amplify MAZON’s efforts to raise awareness of the hunger epidemic here in America and Israel.