Fueling the fire
Gene Forrester can tell you a story about the woman who lived way out in the middle of nowhere. A widow. Her only source of heat was the firewood she burned. The same wood she burned to fix meals.
He can tell you stories about the flood of 2007, when Olympia Kiwanians hauled cord after cord of wood more than 20 miles to Rochester, Washington, to families with submerged furnaces, no electricity, or whose firewood floated away on the retreating water.
He can tell you stories of families so gracious for the Kiwanians’ gift that they volunteered to help cut and stack wood for other families in need.
He can also tell you the story of Kiwanis One Day 2009 when Kiwanians and other volunteers cut, split and stacked eight cords of wood.
“That’s a new one-day production record,” says Firewood Project chairman Gene Forrester.
The Kiwanis Club of Olympia started the firewood project in 1996 when a severe ice storm knocked down trees all over Thurston County. Rather than let so much potential fuel rot where it fell, the club collected, split, cut, sawed and stacked 20 cords of firewood. The next year, Kiwanians delivered the cured firewood to families and elderly people who needed help keeping their homes warm during the winter.
Every year since, the club has delivered more than 50 cords of wood. All timber is donated by individuals, tree-removal companies and Washington State’s Department of General Administration. Department of Correction crews pitch in to increase production. Capitol and Olympia High School Key Club members splint cedar logs and package the wood to give each recipient a box of kindling.
“We’ve seen families who turn off their home’s electricity during daylight hours to save money,” Forrester says. “They can’t afford to spend up to $200 on a cord of firewood.
“Our firewood keeps them warm and safe through the winter,” he says.
Recipe for nutrition
Leeks are good for you. Those onion-cousin stalks are packed with Vitamins A, B6, C and K. They have potassium, manganese, fiber, iron and magnesium. They are said to reduce risk of heart attack, stroke and colon and ovarian cancer. But not too many people know what to do with leeks.
That’s why the Thurston County Food Bank conducts food demonstrations to teach its clients how to make the most of the Olympia Kiwanis Club’s fresh, nutritious vegetables, including leeks.
“Our recipes use ingredients you’d likely find in food banks or in most homes,” says Sarah Swanson, TCFB produce manager.
Here’s a trio of TCFB-proven recipes:
2 medium potatoes
1 large onion
2 cups pinto or kidney beans
¾ cup green bell pepper
4 large tomatoes or 1 can of tomatoes
1 cup tomato sauce
4 cloves garlic
2 cups stock (vegetable)
1 tsp. each of salt, pepper and cumin
2 bay leaves
½ tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)
2 tsp. chili powder
2 tbsp. oil
If using dry beans, soak in water overnight. Discard water from presoaked beans and rinse. Wash all vegetables.
Medium dice potatoes, onion, peppers and carrots. Roughly chop garlic.
Heat large soup pot to medium high heat and add oil. Next, add onion and garlic. Continue to stir while adding salt and pepper. When onions are translucent, add beans, tomatoes, tomato sauce, stock, remaining vegetables and spices.
Bring soup to a boil and then turn heat down and let the chili simmer. Cover, stirring often. Cook for 1 hour or until beans are cooked thoroughly.
Chunky apples for 6
(like to offer very simple things they can fix quickly)
Sugar to taste
½ tsp. cinnamon
Peel and core apples of any type. Cut into slices. Put into sauce pan and simmer for about 10 minutes or until the apples are tender. Add cinnamon. Add as much sugar as you would like, sometimes you need only a tablespoon or so for sweetness. Can be served hot, warm or cold. Great on ice cream.
Spaghetti pie for 6
6 oz. dry spaghetti
2 tbsp. butter
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 eggs (beaten)
1 lb. ground beef, turkey or chicken
1 jar pasta sauce
½ cup grated cheese
Cook spaghetti as instructed on package. Drain. Mix together with butter, cheese and eggs. Form into a crust in a 10-inch pie plate that has been sprayed or well greased. Brown the meat. Stir in pasta sauce. Pour over spaghetti crust. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Sprinkle with grated cheese. Bake another 5 minutes or until melted and slightly brown.
Variation: For meatless pie, sauté vegetable of your choice. Add to pasta sauce. You can use zucchini, onions, broccoli or cauliflower. Whatever you have. I have used carrots, mushrooms, peppers as well. If you would like a spicier version, add oregano or Italian herbs and spices.
Leek and stinging nettle (or spinach) spanakopita
1 brush for oil
1 9 x 13-inch baking dish
1 medium-size skillet
1 wooden spoon
2 lbs. of spinach or nettle
1 tbsp. salt
1 tbsp. pepper
1 tsp. cumin
½ cup olive oil
7 full sheets phyllo dough
2 tsp. lemon juice
4 cloves garlic
2 tsp. fresh herb (sage or oregano)
½ to ¾ cup feta cheese
Defrost phyllo dough, lay flat and cut dough so you have two equal sizes to fit a 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Fold up the remaining dough, wrap and put into the freezer. Brush the dish with olive oil and lay first piece of dough down. Brush oil on each layer, so there is a total of seven layers of dough. Set aside.Wash spinach or nettles (with gloves on). Roughly chop and set aside.
Cut leeks in half long ways. Wash each leek leaf to make sure no mud is between the leaves. Lay each long piece facing down and cut into ¼-inch thick pieces that resemble half moons. Repeat for all the leeks. Roughly chop garlic. Mince fresh herb. Combine the two.
Heat skillet to medium-high heat and add 2 tsp. of olive oil. When the oil is hot, add half of garlic/herb mixture, cumin, half of the salt and pepper, half of the lemon juice and half of the leeks. Sauté and stir until leeks become soft, finally adding half of the spinach or nettles. Cover with lid until the greens are wilted. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
Repeat this process again using all the same ingredients.
When the greens are slightly cool, see if they contain a lot of liquid. Gently squeeze any excess liquid out of the greens and spread evenly over the dough. Crumble the feta cheese over the greens. Add the remaining dough (seven sheets), brushing each layer with olive oil, including the top layer.
** Precut the dough into serving size pieces because once it has baked, the spanakopita becomes too flaky to cut.
Bake at 350 degrees until the top becomes golden (about 30–45 minutes).
What does your garden grow?
The Thurston County Food Bank and Olympia Kiwanis Club work diligently to grow only the foods TCFB clients want
“Our clients are just like everyone else,” says TCFB executive director Robert Coit. “They want good stuff. And they want it fresh.”
To keep their customers satisfied, the Kiwanians grow and the TCFB distributes a variety of crops. Some are more popular than others, but all can be on a family’s table within a day or two of harvest:
- Summer squash
- Winter squash
- String beans