April 2016
Homeplace & Community

The Co-op Pantry

Wow, spring is upon us! Where did the first three months go? Things are blooming, the grass is growing and my allergies are giving me fits! But, this is my favorite month of the year! Along with this, April is Pay Your Taxes Month, Autism Awareness Month, IBS Awareness Month, National Distracted Driving Awareness Month and many others.

Most importantly to me, it is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. As a foster mom, I spent 13 years dealing with every kind of horror a child could experience at the hands of the very people who were supposed to love and protect them. We adopted one of our foster children and have taken a two year break, due in large part to helping the child overcome years of abuse from the biological parents. We are all at the point where we are getting ready to start fostering again. Let me take this opportunity to encourage you to contact your local DHR or the police if you even suspect a child is in a dangerous situation. Do something; don’t sit there while children are dying every day. If you are interested in fostering, call DHR or check with your religious affiliation to see if they can recommend a good foster agency.

Now, this may seem a strange way to start a cooking column, but one thing I found with all those kids is that they needed food prepared for them. Yes, they like fast food and snacks like all children. However, many of them had never had a parent in the kitchen (my husband and I share cooking duties); someone who cared enough to make something special for them. They equate cooking those meals or preparing comfort food with loving them. That works the same for your biological children, too!

Let’s get to the food part of the article. I am going to share some recipes my former foster children and my adopted child love. As well as showing your love, it is an excellent bonding time to spend with your child, teaching a biological, foster or adopted child how to become self-sufficient.


4 (10-inch) flour tortillas

½ pound deli sliced ham

1 pound mozzarella, thinly sliced

Your child’s favorite fruit or yogurt

Turn oven on broil. On HALF of each tortilla, layer ham and cheese. Fold the plain half over on the prepared half. On a cookie sheet or oven tray, broil until the cheese melts and the tortillas are lightly browned. Each side will need 2-3 minutes to get them browned and ready to be removed from the oven. Cut the tortillas into wedges. Add some fruit or yogurt to the plate and you have a fast healthy meal everyone in the family will enjoy.

Note: Super easy and you can have it ready to eat in about 15 minutes.


4 slices bacon

1 cup carrot, chopped

1 cup celery, chopped

1 cup onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, chopped

1 (15½-ounce) can drained great northern beans

2 cups water

2 Tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

1¼ teaspoons salt

In a large skillet over medium heat, cook bacon until crisp, usually 6-7 minutes. Put cooked bacon on paper towel-lined plate to cool.

Put skillet back on medium heat. Add carrots to bacon drippings and cook for about 5 minutes. Add celery, onion and garlic to pan. Cook for 3 additional minutes stirring as the vegetables cook. Add beans and water. Bring to a boil, cover and turn heat to low. Let simmer for 10 minutes.

Uncover the vegetable mixture. Take a potato masher and mash mixture until it gets slightly thick. Stir in parsley, salt and bacon. Place in bowls and enjoy!

Note: This is the perfect recipe to teach a child how to use a timer.


1 (24-ounce) package tater tots

1 pound ground beef

1 onion, diced

1 packet taco seasoning (most kids need mild)

Shredded lettuce

Shredded Mexican cheese

Sour cream (optional)


Prepare tater tots according to package directions. While tater tots are cooking, place skillet on medium heat and add ground beef, onion and taco seasoning. Cook until no pink is left in meat. Stir often and break ground beef up as it cooks. When tater tots have finished cooking, place them on plates. Top with meat mix, lettuce, cheese, sour cream and salsa. Easy and delicious.


1 pound chicken breast tenders

1 cup buttermilk

1 cup flour

1 teaspoon seasoned salt

½ teaspoon poultry seasoning

¼ teaspoon pepper

Canola oil for frying

In medium bowl, place chicken tenders. Pour buttermilk over tenders. Mix to ensure tenders are completely coated. Let stand 10 minutes at room temperature.

In large zip top bag, mix flour, seasoned salt, poultry seasoning and pepper. Add tenders and shake until the tenders are completely covered.

In large skillet over medium-high heat, heat about an inch of oil. When heated, shake excess flour from chicken tenders and add to skillet. Fry until cooked through, about 4 minutes on the first side and 3 minutes on the second side. Don’t overload skillet, fry in batches. Remove each batch to a paper towel-lined plate or platter to drain. Taste a tender for seasoning, and sprinkle with salt while still hot if needed.

Note: This would probably be most suitable for a teen to work with, due to the hot cooking oil.

Mary Delph is an associate editor with AFC Cooperative Farming News. You may email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

I am looking for cooks of all ages, cooking traditions and skill levels to feature in this column. I want to hear from those in Alabama as well as our out-of-state readers. The simple requirements for being a featured cook are to love to cook (and eat) and to share your story with us. Get those recipes coming! Any featured cooks during 2016 will receive a free copy of our new cookbook. – Mary



1½ cups elbow macaroni

Salt, to taste

3 Tablespoons butter

2 Tablespoons flour

2 cups milk

2 cups cheddar cheese, cubed

Preheat oven to 350°. Cook macaroni in boiling, lightly salted water per package directions for al dente. Drain, rinse with warm water and set aside. In a small skillet, melt butter. Blend in flour. Slowly whisk in milk and stir constantly until thick and bubbly. Add cheese; stirring until melted. Add cooked macaroni and blend well. Place into a lightly buttered 1½-quart casserole dish. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until golden brown on top and bubbly.

Note: The world’s favorite comfort food! While I am not knocking the boxed mixes, it is so much better when made from scratch.


1 teaspoon olive oil

1 cup onion, finely chopped

½ cup carrot, finely chopped

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon garlic, minced (from a jar is perfectly OK)

1 cup ketchup, divided

1½ pounds ground beef, extra lean (raw)

1 cup (about 20) fat-free saltine crackers, finely crushed

2 Tablespoons prepared mustard

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (optional)

2 large eggs

Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350°. In large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, heat olive oil. Add onion, carrot, oregano and garlic. Fry about 2 minutes. Cool. In large bowl, combine onion mixture, ½ cup ketchup and remaining ingredients except cooking spray. Coat muffin pan with cooking spray. Spoon meat mixture muffin cups. Top each with 2 teaspoons ketchup. Bake for 25 minutes or until a thermometer registers 160°. Let stand for 5 minutes.

Note: This is a great way to show a young person how fractions work in real life.


½ cup peanut butter

1/3 cup vanilla yogurt

1 Tablespoon orange juice

2 ripe bananas, sliced

4 (8-inch) flour tortillas

2 Tablespoons honey-crunch wheat germ

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

In small bowl, combine peanut butter and yogurt; stirring until smooth. In a large zip lock bag, pour juice and add bananas. Shake gently to coat. Spread about 3 tablespoons peanut butter mixture over each tortilla, leaving a ½-inch border. Arrange about 1/3 cup banana slices in a single layer over peanut butter mixture. Combine wheat germ and cinnamon; sprinkle evenly over banana slices. Roll up. Slice each roll into 6 pieces.

Note: This recipe can be made even healthier by using low fat or nonfat ingredients.


1 banana

6 strawberries, capped

1 kiwi, peeled

½ cup frozen vanilla yogurt

¾ cup (or 3/8 cup each) pineapple and orange juice blend

In blender, put banana, strawberries, kiwi, frozen yogurt and juice(s). Blend until smooth. Easy and healthy!


¾ cup low-fat buttermilk

½ cup mayonnaise

½ cup sour cream

2 Tablespoons white wine vinegar

1 Tablespoon dried chives (optional)

1 Tablespoon dried parsley flakes

1½ teaspoons salt (kosher works best)

½ teaspoon garlic powder

½ teaspoon onion powder

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (optional)

In a medium bowl, mix buttermilk, mayonnaise, sour cream and vinegar. Add chives, parsley, salt, garlic powder, onion powder and black pepper. Mix well. This will store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week.

Note: I have designated a couple of things optional because we have had several children with food allergies. If your child can tolerate the chives and pepper, by all means use them.