Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Heart's Place Shelter

Want to dance your booty off and support a good cause this weekend? You're in luck!

This weekend 2640 is hosting an event to help out one of our fellow building neighbors:

Saturday Feb 12, 7:30PM : The Open Hearts Ball!

Please join us for the third annual Open Hearts Ball , to celebrate Heart's Place Shelter and help fund their 2011 season!

Food, beer and wine, and dancing to our local slice of New Orleans, Sac Au Lait, and Old Man Brown - a fun evening to support one of the few area shelters allowing homeless families to stay together. Tickets are $15 at the door or $12 in advance, coming soon to Red Emma's.

Price of admission includes food from local businesses; beer and wine available for sale. Hope to see you there!

For more information, please go to or contact Maggie Cawley at

For more on Heart's Place, please visit http://www.stjohnsbaltimore.orgheart’splaceshelter.

You may have heard me mention 2640 before, since I often volunteer with the space to hold various art and music events, fundraisers, workshops, activist book release parties, DIY Fest, STEW, community hooping and yoga classes, alternative weddings and more. Proceeds from all events go towards rent, building maintenance, and occasionally skilled labor needed as per the event.

Part II: "BaltimoreDIY Learns to Cook for 25 People at Heart's Place"

It's convenient that the Open Hearts fundraising ball is this weekend, since I just had a big Heart's Place related cooking adventure.

Once a month the St. Johns church members cook dinner for the Heart's Place guests. There is salad, dinner, dessert, and everyone sits down and eats together. This past Monday, I volunteered to take care of the main dinner!

It was terrifying, but I was excited for the opportunity to make dinner for 20-30 people. I also wanted to make a meal with lots of vegetable options and sustainable meat to see how much something like that would cost.

The meal:

- Three 5.5 pound roasted chickens
- Black beans
- Yellow rice
- Stewed tomatoes
- Kale
- Toasted bread with olive oil

The chickens came from Mill Valley, and oh man does sustainably priced meat cost a pretty penny more. I'm a little embarrassed to say how much I spend on chicken, but I managed to stretch the meat far.

Rather than serve individual pieces of meat like a leg or a wing, I shredded the roasted chicken and served it with the rice, beans, and vegetables. That way the meat seems to go a little further and is still satisfying.

People seemed to enjoy the meal, went back for seconds, and the director of the shelter even thanked me for having so many different vegetable options. Yay!

It was also fun figuring out ways to use up all of the leftovers.

Over a quart of grease came out of those chickens! Some of the grease got used to cook the rice and was poured into leftovers soup for flavor. Chicken-Man suggested that some of this chicken fat can be ground up with some of the venison bits for sausage or meatballs. You definitely don't want to eat all of this at once:

Since the chickens were roasted on Super Bowl Sunday, I got to share one of my favorite chicken snacks with all of our friends. After you have shredded the chicken, you will be left with large pieces of skin. Put the skin in a pan on medium to low heat, and the skin will fry in its own fat to make delicious chicken cracklins' that will widen the eyes of any pork-lover. Thrifty re-use #2!

Thrifty re-use #3 is coming tonight when I make stock out of the three chicken carcasses.

What happened to the rest of the meal? Well, if you soak and cook your own beans, you will be left with lots of delicious bean liquid. The leftover beans and their liquid got mixed with the leftover tomatoes and their liquid too. Toss the extra kale in and a leftover rice, add some hot sauce on top, and you've got a ton of yummy soup!

Instead of draining all that bean and tomato liquid into the sink, I ended up with quarts of black bean soup. There's even a sneak peak of the BaltimoreDIY pantry in the background! And that's Chicken-Man's beer brewing on the floor:

Too much rice and lots of eggs in the backyard? Mix the rice with two or three eggs, some onions and peas, a little smoked cheddar or other cheese if you've got it, and you've got a great casserole to slice for snacks or lunch:

Mix all ingredients together, pour into a greased casserole dish and bake at 350 for about an hour. This seems like something that even kids will love, and you could sneak various vegetables into it.

So, even though the chickens were expensive, the meal served about 25 people + turned out about five quarts of soup, a casserole, and probably four or five quarts of chicken stock.

What are some of your cost-effective, crowd-pleasing meals that you love to make with sustainable and healthy food?

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