Saturday, September 19, 2009

Orange Zest, Candied Carrots and Helping Out

Our county has a shared Christian social ministry center that all of the local churches, local businesses, and local people help support. It is called Good Samaritan Ministries ( and includes a food pantry along with other services. People can come once each 30 days and get a grocery cart full of food, enough to feed a family for at least a week
- or more depending on famly size - and usually this even includes fresh frozen meat - even venison!

Volunteers from our church are responsible for the food pantry two days a month, and I try to go and help when I am off. My task is usually to help fill sacks with groceries. It is a lot of fun. Friends from church who are usually busy get a chance to visit with each other, and it is all good.

The people who come for food do not want to be wasteful so there is a bin where they can put back things they will not use. I noticed that one thing a lot of people put back are canned carrots. Plain old canned carrots are not my favorite either. I make a candied carrots dish that is easy to make and most ingredients are in the average pantry.

With permission from Good Samaritan's managers, I bought enough fresh oranges and made enough copies of the recipe to be able to give one to each family on "our" day along with their can(s) of carrots.

This was during a time when oranges were plentiful and on sale at the store, so it did not cost me much to buy the 5 bags necessary to have one for each of the 50 or so families we serve on the days our church works. It was a one-time thing, too, so it did not create expectations or cause a hardship to do this.

Here is my recipe for Candied Orange Carrots:

1 can of carrots
Juice of 1 orange or 1/2 cup of orange juice
1 Tbls of orange "zest"*** if available
1/4 cup sugar or honey (can also substitute brown sugar or syrup of any kind)
Mix together carrots, orange juice, orange zest and sugar or honey.
Simmer uncovered for 10 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve with any meal.

If you have Orange Marmalade, or peach or apricot jam, you can mix 1/2 cup of the jam with the carrots instead of using orange juice, peel and sugar.

*** "Zest" is citrus peel - just the orange (or yellow or green) part of the peel. Lemon zest and orange zest are most often called for, but you could make tangerine zest and lime zest. Remove in strips from the orange with a potato peeler or run the whole orange across a grater to
get the zest. There's even a special little tool you can get that takes the peel of in skinny strips.

You can dry or freeze the extra for future use. To dry it, just let it sit out on the counter until it is dry! It will keep for ages in a jar in the pantry. It is useful for cooking and baking with, and is great steeped with hot tea.

I wasn't able to be there that day, but they told me a lot of people thought it sounded good and said they were going to try it. They made extra copies of the recipe and put one into each family's sacks for the whole month.

There's been a 29% increase in the number of families served with food this year at Good Samaritan. It has jumped from around 600 families each month to nearly 800 per month. And there is always a rise at Christmas time, so we can expect that there may be a thousand families
for December in our little county.

Often charities need gifts of our time even more than money. With that many more people to serve, more helpers are needed to fill bags and do paperwork, otherwise people who come for groceries have to sit and wait a long time.

I am sure it is the same in your town. So if you have a little time to spare - even if only once in a while - it will be appreciated.

PS They don't call those graters "knuckle busters" for nothing! Careful not to grate your hand. If you do, the sticker on the fruit makes a handy make-do bandaid. ;-)

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