Sunday, April 28, 2013

5 Meatless Family Favorites Using WIC Ingredients

A few weeks ago I sat in the noisy gym at the Y (during family fun time) listening to a voice mail from one of my WIC counselors asking me to call her back regarding the online session I had just completed.  At my last visit I had been offered the choice between a follow up in office visit or an online session on after which I would just email the office. I took the online choice and all I could think was: SHIT!... because there is nothing like an online, blank, anonymous appearing box to solicit my honest and uncensored opinion on a subject, especially a subject related to food.  And that opinion had NOT been kind.  In my mind the person reading my criticism was not received by the sweet lady I look forward to chatting with every few months but rather the creator of the lack luster content I had found when I clicked through the segments of my Meatless Meals Section I had chosen to complete.

When I finally did speak to her, I swallowed hard, straitened my back and clutched my phone and spoke honestly with her about my impression of the tool I had just tried out.  Why?  Because I believe that access to and education about healthy food for mothers and children is important.  I also believe that the WIC program could make a few small changes to their online program to be much more effective.

(I understand the value of being able to log in and spend a few minutes going through a few pages and watching a few videos rather than commuting to an office.  Not everyone has the advantage of living within walking distance to their WIC office and especially for mom's living in rural areas this option is much more affordable and convenient.)

1.) As I clicked through the pages I was left to wonder:  How did this experience benefit me? How did it benefit my children?  The simple answer was: It did not. That being said - it could and should.  The 2012 - 13 income guidelines for eligibility for a family of four states that the annual income can be up to  $42,643.  It is apparent that the WIC program serves a broad demographic of our society: any woman from a pregnant teen to a graduate student working her doctorate and everything in between - all with their own levels of competency in the kitchen.  A simple survey at the beginning of the educational session assessing socio-economic status, culinary proficiency and social stability could allow the content to be tailored to the user.  This would do wonders for the usefulness of the information provided.

2.) I was eager to read the list of 20 Meatless Meals list that was deemed to save you money at the grocery store, but when I got to Mac and Cheese (for a healthier option: cook whole wheat pasta and add a can of cheddar cheese soup) I felt angry and disappointed.  My kids love Macaroni and Cheese.  We usually have it once a month.  I throw it together and then run off to do my shift at our local food co-op.  The thing is, the WIC program provides milk and cheese: the essential ingredients of a good, made from scratch Mac and Cheese, so why not provide a recipe that utilizes those ingredients?  Why not provide a list of 20 meals that utilize WIC ingredients?

I can to nothing about my first complaint...  except complain directly to those folks who generated the content and that seems like a futile endeavor.

But, I can do something about my second complaint.  I am a mother on the WIC program and there are many recipes that I have sought out precisely because they utilize those items provided by the program. So here are the first 5 of my goal to provide 20 WIC ingredient centered meals. These are some of our favorite Meatless Meals!

Sylvan sneaking a bite of our Made from Scratch Mac and Cheese - to be reheated later that day (by dad) while I am doing my food co-op shift. 

1. Mac and Cheese - Made from Scratch - It is EASY! 

2 cups of uncooked elbow macaroni 
  • or any kind of pasta really, my kids dont care what shape they are
  • cook according to the package directions and while they are draining mix, use the pasta pot to make the sauce. (In my world less dishes = better.)
1/4 cup butter
1/4 flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce (if you don't have it, skip it)
dash of paprika
2 cups of milk (WIC item!)
2 cups of shredded Cheddar cheese (WIC item!)

  • pour the drained pasta back into the pot and stir into the sauce 
  • I usually serve this with a side of steamed broccoli (could also be a WIC item).  My kids prefer their Mac and Cheese untainted...  they will not eat the broccoli mixed in, but will on the side... go figure. 

2. Vegetable Fried Rice

3 Tablespoons butter 
  • melt butter in pan and add
4 cups cooked brown rice (WIC item!)
1 package mixed vegetables, cooked according to package directions NOT soggy (WIC item!)
4 Tablespoons soy sauce (more to taste)
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon oregano
  • stir and warm thoroughly (add more ginger and oregano if you like)
  • move rice to edge 
2 Tablespoons butter
2 eggs, beaten lightly (WIC item!)
  • in center of pan add butter, eggs and pepper,  allow eggs to firm up a bit before stirring a few times and then mix the entire content of the pan 
  • My kids love fried rice. I add a dash of sriracha sauce to my plate! 

3. Spinach Stuffed Manicotti

1 box manicotti
  • prepare according to directions on box - trust me this is so much easier than the final dish looks
1 1/2 cups Mozzarella cheese (WIC item!)
16 ounces cottage cheese
10 package frozen spinach, thawed and drained (WIC item!)
2 eggs (WIC item)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

  • combine the mozzarella cheese, cottage cheese, Parmesan cheese, eggs, and spinach in a bowl
  • use a small spoon to stuff the cooked manicotti
  • place stuffed manicotti into a greased 9 X 13 baking dish 
  • top with
1 jar spaghetti sauce
  • bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit
  • top with
1 1/2 cups of Mozzarella cheese (WIC item!)
  • bake for an additional 15 minutes
  • let stand for 15 minutes before serving

4. Beans and Greens Tacos with Goat Cheese

3 Tablespoons oil
1 onion, sliced (WIC item!)
5 (or less) cloves of garlic
  • cook onions until soft, then add
1 bunch of Swiss Chard, cut into strips (WIC item!)
  • cook until bright green, then add
2 cans of canellini beans or red kidney beans, drained and rinsed (WIC item!)
  • cook until warm
  • serve on warmed
Corn tortillas (WIC item!) 
  • and topped with
Crumbled Goat Cheese and Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Don't skimp on the goat cheese.  It brings it all together...  (although I usually use freshly grated Romano cheese on the kid's tortillas.  They don't always go for the goat cheese) 

5. Cucumber and Tofu Salad 

2 cucumbers, cubed (WIC item)
  • salt the cucumbers, place in a colander and rinse after 10 minutes
  • while the cucumbers and sitting prepare the dressing and the tofu
8 ounces tofu, cubed
  • fry the tofu in hot oil until browned
2 Tablespoons finely chopped onion (WIC item!)
1 clove garlic
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
2-3 Tablespoons soy sauce
1-2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons brown sugar (or honey)
salt (to taste)
  • combine the onions, garlic, chili, soy sauce, vinegar and brown sugar and blend well (I use an immersion blender) 
  • combine rinsed cucumbers, fried and slightly cooled tofu and dressing in a bowl, toss and serve
More Recipes Here:


  1. RE: Tofu. Do you cube and brown the kind that is packed in a little box with a little liquid? I think the tofu comes in soft or in firmer preparations? What do you use? and in regard to the jar of spaghetti sauce: What brand do you use? (I have never used a canned spaghetti sauce.)


    1. The tofu I use is firm and packed in liquid. I cube it and then cook it in oil that is already pretty hot. You let it sit for a while before you turn them. It will fall apart a little. I find that cooking tofu is tricky and we have gotten a bit better at it after lots of practice.
      As far as the spaghetti sauce goes, I have been using my own, but I just ran out. I am going to have to pick one up at the store soon... I'll let you know what I choose.