As many of you brought to my attention when I asked you to use the Personal Chef Approach™ (PCA™) to “Feed Your Family and Theirs” in support of the Children’s Hunger Crisis in East Africa last year, food instability is a growing concern right here in the United States. One in six children in America do not know where or when their next meal will come from. A nutritious, well-balanced diet is critical for healthy growth and development, especially in the first 3 years of life, and the lack thereof can effect a person forever.

Good nutrition for children is vital

Good nutrition for children is vital

” According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), 16.2 million children under 18 in the United States live in this condition – unable to consistently access nutritious and adequate amounts of food necessary for a healthy life.” Lane Buckman decided to do something about it in her own community, and came up with a clever idea and competition to enlist your help (and it won’t cost you a penny), the Grocery Rescue Challenge.

Lane: Since I learned to cook using the PCA™, I find myself looking at food and it’s preparation very differently. I catch myself pre-prepping just about everything. It has made a huge and wonderful difference for me, saving me time that I’ve been able to put to good use in other places such as volunteering at the North Texas Food Bank (NTFB) working the Grocery Rescue – Family Box line.

The Personal Chef Approach dinners

PCA™ dinners

Our job is to sort through the boxes of food donated by grocery stores – separating the expired, ruined, or unlabeled goods. We also pack boxes full of food meant to feed a family for at least a week. First we put down a layer of cans, then fill the top of the banker size box with whatever goods we can gather out of the groceries.

It’s challenging, and we work hard to prepare boxes that will satisfy as much nutrition as possible. I try to focus on finding foods that will combine and hold well, and provide the family cook with options – all the while thinking how would I serve this to my family?  How could I make this a lunch and a dinner?  I actually apply the PCA™ to my boxes, and about three boxes in, the workers from the food bank started cheering my work!

After those first few boxes, I wished I could throw in the recipes I had in mind too, because if I had received a box like this prior to learning the PCA™… well, let’s just say I wouldn’t have had the first idea of what to do with it. When I came home, I emailed Julie Anne. Knowing her commitment to help end hunger, plus how creative the awesome members of her website are, I suggested a challenge that I hope will raise awareness and offer a solution to families getting a grab-bag of groceries.

Teaching your children the joy of giving while having fun getting creative

Win-win: teaching your children the joy of giving while having fun getting creative

The Challenge

Using the list of ingredients below, try to create recipes for a few meals that will feed 3-4 people.  You may use bonus ingredients of unlimited amounts of salt and pepper, 4 tbs of butter, and a half gallon of milk. Send your recipes to, and I will pass along the top 5 entries to Julie Anne for final judging.

Each box ends up something like this:

  • 6 or 7 cans of assorted vegetables.
  • 3 or 4 cans of assorted soup/chili/ravioli
  • 2 small cans of tomato paste
  • 2 or 3 cans of chicken/beef
  • 3 or 4 cans of tuna
  • 3 cans of Vienna Sausages
  • a bag of rice
  • a bag of spaghetti
  • 4 packages of Ramen noodles
  • 2 boxes of Jiffy cornbread mix
  • 1 bottle of salad dressing
  • 1 bottle of cooking oil
  • 1 bottle of vinegar
  • Peanut butter
  • a small bag of pasta
  • a bag of dried beans
  • chicken stock
  • Some kind of fruit canned/cupped/applesauce
  • A couple of boxes of ready-to-make pasta or mac-n-cheese


gift certificate to for 3 months

Win a gift certificate to for 3 months

The winner will receive a 3 month Premium Membership to, a sparkly gift from One Star Designs, and a great surprise.  I will also share the winning recipes with the North Texas Food Bank as an option to print out for anyone who wants them.

PS. Helping others is not only a great character building exercise for your children, you can have a lot of fun getting creative together in the kitchen like I did with my son. Here’s what we did with a couple of the Vienna sausages and a handful of spaghetti noodles:

Spaghetti and Vienna sausage jelly fish

Spaghetti and Vienna sausage jelly fish

Jellyfish for the Belly

  • Cut the sausages into ½ inch rounds.
  • Break the spaghetti noodles into 4 inch pieces
  • Stick 8 to 10 noodle pieces into each of the sausage rounds
  • Boil until noodles are tender and wiggly
  • Serve on a plate with dipping sauce of your favorite child’s choice.

– or try something like Jewels did –

Julie Anne's black bean spaghetti

Black & White Bean Spaghetti

I first made this for a friend that Tatjana had visiting last summer, and they both gave it the thumbs up, so I started making it for my vegetarian clients too.  Packed full of fiber and protein, this is a very healthy yet hardy meal you can easily make on a tight budget. It’s a real hodgepodge of ingredients, so don’t worry if you are lacking a couple – it will still be bursting with flavor and nutrients guaranteed to fill you up.

Servings: 4


1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, sliced
1 small red bell pepper, seeded, deveined, and chopped
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 14.5 ounce can diced tomato
1 8 ounce can tomato sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1 15 ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 15 ounce can white beans, undrained
2 tablespoons capers
1/4 cup black olives, sliced
1 tablespoon fresh Italian parsley, chopped or 1 teaspoon dried
2 teaspoons fresh oregano, chopped or 3/4 teaspoon dried
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 tablespoon fresh basil or 1 teaspoon dried
1 package of whole wheat spaghetti
Parmesan cheese, grated


1). Heat the oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onions, peppers, and mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened with a little color, about 8-9 minutes. Add the garlic, cook 1-2 minutes, or until fragrant.

2). Add the tomatoes, tomato sauce, sugar, black beans, white beans, capers, olives, oregano, parsley and season to taste with salt and pepper. Simmer, 10 minutes while you cook the pasta. Stir in basil.

3). Cook pasta in a large saucepan according to package instructions. Drain well and add back to pan.

4). Pour our sauce over the pasta, toss and serve sprinkled with Parmesan.

Serving Suggestions:

Serve with a mixed green salad, grilled vegetables, or balsamic marinated vegetables.


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