Forgiveness is Huge

This morning, our friend who sees Demon Fairies, came up to me immediately and said “I’m sorry, I’m an asshole.  I had a total nervous breakdown yesterday.  Sometimes we hurt the people who help us the most, and I’m sorry.”

I asked him if his medications had been in the bag that got stolen, and he said they were, and that he had an appointment on the 3rd to have his scripts refilled.  I told him that if there was anything we could do to keep him calm and out of trouble until his appointment to let us know, and not to let it build up to yesterday again.  We’ll help you out however we can, but we have to keep the place safe for everyone.  He agreed to that, and I gave him a hug.  He said “I haven’t had a hug from anyone in a long time.”

He was quiet and went about his business for the rest of the day.  He ate at lunch (a good thing), and I got him a bag to replace the old, black trash bag that he had been hauling his worldly possessions around in.  It wasn’t much, just a Marshall’s reusable shopping bag, but he looked really happy and said “That’s a great bag, thank you.”

Grace is hard, and forgiveness is huge.

The rest of our day was busy, 62 people for lunch!  Billy and I reorganized the meat cooler and were in awe of how much pork we had in comparison to everything else.  One thing that we have learned very quickly is that a LOT of people don’t eat pork.  When we make pork (and we pretty much have to every lunch because it is the most donated meat in our area), we always have to make something to go with it.  We have St. John’s Methodist church doing our lunch tomorrow, so we’re planning Thursday’s meal.  So far it’s pork shoulder, and turkey neck gravy for the non-pork folks over rice.

Our hall was swamped with clothing and bedding donations, so I and our friend, Dave, took a stab at clearing it all out.  We have a lot of women’s clothing, a lot of men’s dress pants, and a lot of assorted bedding.  More bedding than we can use right now, so if you’re looking for sheet sets, pillow cases or a quilt, stop by and help yourself, we have plenty!

I’m trying to write something every day, so some days there will be more than others, however, I definitely thought that this deserved an update.  Tomorrow we’ll be starting the day with sausage, eggs and grits, so if you’re up and about at 9:30, join us for breakfast!





Shepherd’s Pie- a soup kitchen favorite

If you’ve ever had to cook for 40+, you know that can be daunting.  I’ve noticed that “food for a crowd” recipes tend to hover around the “20 people” mark, and they don’t really take into account the fact that you may have a windfall of one donated thing vs. another.  Shepherd’s pie is a crowd pleaser, versatile, and very easy to make.

Shepherd’s pie has 3 layers:

1.) ground meat (beef, pork, chicken and turkey are all okay).

2.) canned vegetable (peas, corn, green beans, veg all or any mix of these work well).

3.)Mashed potatoes (from scratch, flakes or any of the pre-prepared ones from grocery stores that you get in a windfall of food and freeze).

When starting a shepherd’s pie, you’ll want to work on meat and potatoes first, as the canned vegetables are already cooked.  If making mashed potatoes from scratch, start with washing, cutting and boiling potatoes as the very first thing you do in your kitchen, then prepare as you always do.  If working with potato flakes or frozen mashed potatoes, you can prepare both potatoes and meat at the same time.

The meat here is the important part.  If you have onions or peppers to work with, sauté’ those first, then add your ground meat.  Today we served 62 people and used 10 lbs. of ground pork.  Season your ground meat as it cooks, and don’t be stingy about making it taste good.  Salt and pepper are key, but use what’s available.  Garlic (powder, salt or pepper), onion powder, seasoning salt, Montreal Steak Seasoning, poultry seasoning, paprika, rosemary, thyme, parsley and sage can all work really well with this step, just use things that make sense with one another.  If you taste it and it doesn’t taste good to you, it won’t to anyone else.

Potatoes need a little work, but sometimes butter and milk are scarce.  If you want to kick up the flavor but don’t have any dairy, chicken stock or buillion, even cut with an equal amount of water if you’re running low on meat-juice, will add deliciousness to your dish.  Make a small pot of broth out of vegetable ends and meat bones if need be.  Drippings from sautéing your ground meat can also be incorporated, because your well seasoned meat juice should definitely be used to tie together the dish if you have nothing else.

Preheat your oven to 350.  Take the two biggest oven pans you have and line the bottom of both with all of the browned meat.  The next layer is your canned vegetables.  We used 8 cans of peas today for two giant pans (strained, of course, don’t make your meat soggy with pea-juice).  If your meat looks thin, add extra veggies.  Frozen vegetables are an option, I would recommend giving them a quick steam in a big bowl covered in plastic wrap in the microwave first, because the baking of the dish, in this case is for warming, mixing flavors and browning, not actually “cooking”.  All ingredients in the casserole should be already cooked before assembly.

Next, layer your mashed potatoes over the pan with a spatula or a silicone baking spatula, kind of like frosting a big sheet cake.

Place both pans in the oven for about 20 minutes to get everything to an even temperature.  Switch your oven from “baking” to “broiling”, and toast up the tops of both (you may have to alternate them if only using one oven to get even browning on both giant pans). If you happen to have cheese, take out your browned pan, add cheese, and place back into the oven to melt the cheese.

IMPORTANT: if broiling on high or using a convection oven, DO NOT LEAVE UNATTENDED.  Why?  This last step happens very quickly and it’s easy to simply burn the top of the mashed potatoes.

So, you never read that warning and you have to save your hard work.   How do you save your pie??? Take it out immediately, as soon as you smell the crusty char of your burnt casserole.  Take a good, sharp edged spatula and scrape off the top, burnt, black crust.  The mashed potatoes underneath are still tasty.  Get all of the burn off.  Pop it back in the oven and don’t go for a cigarette break.  Check casserole compulsively until it looks like something you want to eat.

Shepherd’s pie, vegan pumpkin chili, fresh salad.

Today at the tiny soup kitchen at the center, we served Shepherd’s Pie with an additional choice of Vegan Pumpkin Chili for our pork-free, diabetic and vegetarian people who are currently experiencing homelessness or food insecurity.  Protein is important when food is scarce, and I promise that Vegan Pumpkin Chili will get it’s own post for you!