Ceres Community Project is a nonprofit serving Sonoma and Marin counties with healing meals designed to support families facing a health challenge like cancer, prepared with love by teen volunteers who learn to cook and eat for health, gain job skills and give back to their community. (Recipe below)
One of the volunteer chefs in the Santa Rosa kitchen is Uriel Mondragon, a senior at Sonoma Valley High School. He signed on for his senior project, which will culminate in a new skill set – and a new cookbook.
Mondragon didn’t know much about cooking, but wanted to learn something new, “to do something different, out of the ordinary.” Getting to know his way around the kitchen, and how to make nutritious meals, was intriguing, he said. And he was drawn to the Ceres’ mission, particularly after a breast cancer scare in the family. “It feels really good.”
He is well past the project’s 20-hour commitment, but will continue as a volunteer. “I really like it,” says the teenager, “I just might stay awhile.”
Ceres’ Deborah Ramelli explains that the organization’s three kitchens — in Sebastopol, Santa Rosa and San Rafael — prepare organic, nutrient-rich meals that are designed to help people facing a serious acute illness stay nourished, minimize side effects from treatment, and recover faster. Learn more at Ceresproject.org or 707.829.5833
“Our meals are full of seasonal vegetables, whole grains, legumes, herbs, spices, broths, wild-caught sustainable fish and poultry,” she says.
More than half of the clients receive meals free of charge, and most others pay on a sliding scale. “Because an illness affects the whole family, “ Ramelli says, “we offer meals to family members as well as the patient, and help the whole household adopt better long-term eating habits.
“Here’s an example of a recipe we use in our kitchen. It’s rich in anti-oxidant filled spices and herbs that can help calm inflammation, along with fiber-filled seasonal vegetables.”
Coconut Masala with Vegetables
Makes five servings 5 | Prep time: 30 minutes | Cooking time: 30 minutes | Serve with brown rice
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 c. chopped onion
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp ground coriander
¾ tsp turmeric
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
¾ tsp sea salt
¾ Tbsp fresh lemon juice
14 oz diced tomatoes in juice
3 c. cauliflower florets
2 c. peeled yams in 1/2 –inch cubes
3 c. asparagus, trimmed and cut in 1-inch sections
6 oz coconut milk
¼ c chopped fresh cilantro
2 Tbsp chopped green onion tops (green part only)
Bring a large pot of water to boil.
* Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and saute until deep golden. Add garlic, all spices and salt; stir and cook 2-3 minutes longer.
* Place the tomatoes and the onion mixture into a blender; puree until almost smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper and transfer to a large pot. Add coconut milk, lemon juice and ½ of the green onions and cilantro.
* Blanch the cauliflower, yams and asparagus separately in the boiling water, just until tender.
* Add these vegetables to the tomato-coconut mixture and warm gently over medium heat until it starts to simmer. Remove from heat and serve, garnished with remaining green onions and cilantro.