Amazing recipes from chefs who feed the homeless

BY   November 25, 2014 at 12:35 PM EDT



Emily Hagel (left) and Ciji Wagner (right) helm kitchen operations at Miriam’s Kitchen where they infuse creativity and nutrition into breakfasts and dinners. Photos by Ariel Min.

Miriam’s Kitchen in Washington, D.C. has its own Hippocratic oath: serve food you’d find at a restaurant or a family table. Open for breakfast and dinner, the organization, founded three decades ago to provide meals for the homeless, has served everything from duck breasts to seafood stew. The kitchen cooks 78,000 meals a year, spending roughly 50 cents a plate.

“Just because you don’t have access to food doesn’t mean you don’t have a sophisticated palate,” said Emily Hagel, a chef there.

With Thanksgiving approaching, here are a collection of holiday recipes we’ve culled from restaurants, shelters and churches that serve those in need, but also value nutrition and fine cooking. Below, Hagel’s Butternut Squash Souffle.


Butternut Squash Souffle


1 ½ butternut squash
6 tablespoons butter, melted but not hot
3 eggs, lightly beaten
½ cup sugar
½ cup flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. Cut top and bottom off butternut squash
3. Cut squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds
4. Roast, cut side down, on parchment lined sheet tray for 40-45 minutes, until soft
5. Allow to cool to room temperature
6. Scoop out flesh with spoon
7. Puree in food processor until completely smooth
8. Fold in eggs, then fold in melted butter
9. Whisk together the dry ingredients
10. Fold dry ingredients into squash mixture, being sure to not over-mix
11. Put squash mixture in 9” x 9” greased baking dish
12. Bake for 45-50 minutes, until beginning to brown but still slightly loose in the center

Serves 8-10

Brad and Libby Birky, SAME Cafe
Denver, Colorado


Volunteers like Toni Lopez (left) sustain SAME Cafe in Denver with a new locally-sourced menu every day. Photos by Rebecca Jacobson.

Brad and Libby Birky opened SAME Cafe two years before the economic collapse in 2008. Working “so all may eat,” their “pay what you can” restaurant model was a hit, with the average soup, salad or pizza meal coming out to $7.50. But when people in their community began losing their jobs, the average contribution plummeted to $2.00 per person and meals spiked to 100 a day, up from 30. “As things have ebbed and flowed naturally, we see a microcosm of what’s happening nationwide here inside the cafe,” said Brad. Today, SAME Cafe is sustained by donations and the Birkys’ desire to “minimize the economic disparity that comes through food” is still strong.

DSC_0095Turkey Cranberry and Brie Pizza


1/2 cup cranberry sauce
1 teaspoon fresh cilantro, stemmed and minced
1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon of red onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Pre-made pizza dough for a 12” crust
1 cup shredded turkey (or more, to taste)
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/3 cup tiny cubes of brie cheese


1. Mix cranberry sauce, cilantro, red onion and cumin together to create sauce
2. Roll out pizza dough on a greased 12-inch pizza pan
3. Spread sauce evenly over pizza dough
4. Sprinkle mozzarella cheese evenly over dough, followed by turkey and brie
5. Bake pizza for 10 minutes at 400 degrees
6. Allow to cool
6. Garnish with fresh cilantro before serving

Serves 2-4

Kevin Lenihan, Salvation Army West Women’s Shelter
Portland, Oregon


Carrots can be supplemented in this comforting side dish for a more nutritious approach. Photos by Ariel Min.

Working in the Peace Corps in Ghana changed chef Kevin Lenihan’s outlook on food security. “Although we have tons of food, we have an issue with providing access,” he said. He joined the kitchen staff of a women’s shelter with a mission to help a specific population: survivors of domestic violence.

“It’s not just the poor here,” he said. “Anyone can be a victim of domestic violence. There are people here who have experienced multigenerational poverty and others with good jobs and college degrees.”

A southern native, Kevin cooks comfort food, but with a healthy twist.

“Seeing the joy that food brings is very rewarding,” he said. “I don’t get paid much, and this isn’t a great job by those standards. But the interactions are where the payoff is.”


Candied Yams with Peaches


4 large yams, washed and cut into 1 inch cubes
1 cup dried Peaches (or other dried fruit)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 pinch salt
2 tablespoons maple syrup


1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit
2. Mix yams in a roasting pan with olive oil, salt and spices. Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes or until yams are soft
3. Rehydrate peaches in 1 cup of water for 20 min, then chop into quarter inch pieces or use a food processor
4. Remove yams from oven and mash them, top with dried peaches and maple syrup and return to oven for 5-10 min
5. Remove from oven.

Serves 6-8 as a side dish

Note: For a healthier dish, yams can be supplemented with mashed carrots. Canned peaches can also be used instead of dried peaches if the syrup washed off first. Brown sugar (or another sweetener) can be substituted for maple syrup or the additional sweetener can be omitted altogether.

The Water Ministry
Washington, DC


Penny Ray (left) and Thelma Triche (right) are longtime volunteers of the Water Ministry. Photos by Ariel Min.

The Water Ministry began in Tenleytown in 1990 when St. Columba’s Episcopal Church parishioner Dick Dowd asked three chronically homeless men what they needed most. Hot water, they responded, for laundry and showers. So when St. Columba’s expanded their parish hall, a wing was built to serve both those needs. A decade later, Kathi Chapman, a professional caterer and member of the church, began volunteering to cook hot lunches.

“She established a legacy of excellence in cooking,” said volunteer Thelma Triche.

Now, the kitchen requires more cooks and a nicer space to accommodate the 40 guests they receive every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.

DSC_5095Kielbasa Cabbage Stew


1 pound or 1 ring of smoked turkey kielbasa or Polish sausage, sliced
1 pound of potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 cup shredded cabbage
1 cup carrots, diced
1 large onion, chopped
14 – 15 ounces of chicken stock
3/4 cup of water
2 tablespoons of sugar
1 teaspoon of caraway seeds
1/4 teaspoon of black pepper
1 can (16 ounces) of red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon olive oil


1. Brown the kielbasa or sausage in a large sauce pan &/or skillet
2. Add the potatoes, cabbage, carrots, onion and chicken stock
3. Add water, sugar, caraway seeds and pepper
4. After bringing to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes while stirring occasionally until the potatoes are tender
5. Add beans and cider vinegar, cover and simmer 5 to 10 minutes
6. In a separate bowl, combine flour and remaining water until smooth, stir into stew
7. Bring to a boil, cook and stir for 2 to 5 minutes or until thick

Serves 6