Every once a while I get a chance to infiltrate the campus of a major corporation like Microsoft. Usually it’s to beg someone to join our board or to be a sponsor of our annual event (ideally, both). These places are very different from nonprofits, but luckily, I’ve learned to blend in by using the lingo. Walking up to the reception desk, for example, I’ll pretend to say something on the phone like, “Yes, I know you’re cranking against deliverables–we all are–but the adminisphere needs the CRM to be in beta drop and repro by next week or we are all SOL, so tell your PM to get the chips and salsa buttoned down!” Except for my aura of stress and exhaustion, no one suspects that I am from the nonprofit world.
Until I enter the cafeteria. Did you know many big companies have cafeterias? Last month, I visited he one at Microsoft, and it is amazing! They have these cool stations, with different types of hot food. They even have vegetarian/vegan food. All for very reasonable prices. I get so excited seeing all this convenient and affordable food, freshly prepared every day, and it shows. I ran around, expressing delight at everything, embarrassing the host. “Dude, calm down,” he whispered, “It’s like you’ve never seen food before.” The forks and spoons are all compostable, made from potatoes. “This is totally awesome,” I said, chewing on a piece of Panko-crusted tofu, “This tofu tastes like childhood. And this fork is delicious!” Ah, to have hot food prepared for you every day, to eat with edible utensils!
“So,” I said, calming down, “would you consider joining our board?”
It’s disappointing to come back down to earth, where we have no company-sponsored cafeteria, where last week one of the staff interrupted me to ask whether there was any food left over from the meeting the previous night. Let’s face it, we nonprofit folks have different eating habits than the corporate types. First, because we don’t have the same financial resources. Second, we usually also don’t have a lot of time, since we’re always helping people and stuff.
However, that shouldn’t mean that we can’t eat delicious, nutritious, and affordable meals. Also, we don’t like to waste food, and there is always a ton of food left over from various meetings. That’s why, prompted by Director Jen of Virginia, I’ve been thinking of writing a cookbook for nonprofit professionals. I’m working on it between episodes of the Walking Dead, but I wanted to give you a sample of what will be in the book. Here are a few recipes. I also asked friends of NWB’s Facebook page for suggestions.
The ED Ramen Bowl: Prepare one package of ramen. Add some frozen vegetables. Microwave for 5 minutes. Eat while reading financial statements or having a meeting with a staff. One hour later, eat a Cliff Bar while running to a meeting. Serves 1.
Fundraiser Wine Sangria: After every annual event, you will inevitably be left with several bottles of wine that have been partially finished. Don’t dump those down the drain! Combine and pour about 2 bottles’ worth into a punch bowl, add 2 sliced lemons, 2 sliced oranges, 2 shots of brandy or vodka, and 4 cups of leftover club soda or ginger ale or whatever, stir, and chill for a refreshing drink at the debriefing session. Serves 8, or serves 4 twice.
I-Forgot-My-Lunch Pasta: Having dried pasta and jarred spaghetti sauce in the office is a major time and money saver. For a quick meal, add dry pasta to a large microwave-safe glass bowl. Add water to one or two inches above pasta. Microwave for 15 minutes. Go answer some emails. Check for doneness and microwave 3 more minutes as necessary. Carefully drain pasta and return to bowl. Add pasta sauce to your liking, and stir. The hot bowl will heat up the pasta sauce. Serves 1 to 5. If you want more nutrition, add frozen or fresh vegetables and microwave an additional 3 minutes.
Hummus Platter Pizza: Hummus has gotten very popular, and that’s why 95% of nonprofit group meetings will feature this item, along with baby carrots, sugar snap peas, broccoli florets, and pita wedges. You will always have more hummus than people will eat, so why not make a delicious “pizza” after the meeting? Take leftover pita wedges, spread hummus on top, slice and add leftover baby carrots, snap peas, and broccoli, cover with shredded cheese cubes leftover from another meeting, and bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Serves 1 to 5.
Morning-After Breakfast Melt (Contributed by J Eric Smith): “Put the leftovers from last night’s meeting/event snack platters in a bowl. Pretty consistently, the things that no one ever eats off the platter are the pepper jack cheese, the weird salami looking stuff with more white fat than red meat in it, the cauliflower florets, and those strange, flat, brown things in the snack mix that taste like Worcestershire sauce. Heat in microwave until the cheese melts. Eat at desk, with aspirin garnish.” Serves 1 to 8.
The Team-Building Stone Soup: Food being left in the fridge for too long can cause consternation among staff. So every month, make a delicious “minestrone” soup. Add one carton of vegetable stock and one jar of tomato-based pasta sauce to a large pot. Season with salt, pepper, and a tablespoon or dried Italian seasoning (rub between your fingertips as you add for extra flavor). Add a splash of red wine left over from an event and half a cup of small dried pasta. Then have each staff look through the fridge and see what they can contribute to the soup: cheese, tuna salads, that weird kombucha tea with its “mother” floating inside, other soups. Simmer till the pasta is cooked. Not only is this a great way to clean out the fridge, it’s also a wonderful team-building activity. Serves the entire team.
Pastry bread pudding: Breakfast pastries are like government grants. At first they seem like a good idea, but you quickly get sick from how heavy they are. And yet, which nonprofit has not had a box of assorted pastries left over after an early-morning meeting? Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut 8 pastries into small pieces, shove into a baking pan, and drizzle 3 tablespoons melted butter over pieces. In a mixing bowl, whisk 4 eggs, 2 cups milk, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, ½ cup sugar, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Pour over pastries and make sure everything is covered in liquid. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes. Serves 3 to 8.
The Development Director Omelette (Contributed by Rachel Schachter): “Take a dozen eggs out of the fridge. Give your ED a list of donors to call. Wait one week. Throw one egg at him for every donor not called. Go to store. Buy more eggs, repeat as necessary.” (Note from NWB: This is actually not a recipe and is very wasteful of eggs, which should be saved for the real recipes, like the bread pudding above).
I’ll be developing more recipes for the cookbook. Please send in your nonprofit recipes and any suggestions you may have. Remember: Just because we’re in nonprofit, and cranking against deliverables, doesn’t mean we can’t eat well.
Ooh, my ramen is ready!