3 years ago

Joe Stumpe’s Operation Holiday

by Joe Stumpe

When we asked Joe Stumpe to put together a holiday meal using the things an average family of four receives through Operation Holiday he immediately accepted the challenge, and even got his class in the Butler Community College Culinary Arts program to assist. The results were impressive, plentiful and delicious! 

He shared the experience and some recipes in the Wichita Eagle's Neighbors section. Now if I could just get an invitation to Christmas dinner at his house so I don't have to actually cook them to enjoy them!

A Little Help Goes a Long Way in the Kitchen

It's the kind of challenge foodies love: how many side dishes for a holiday meal can be made with $35?

The organizers of Operation Holiday gave me that assignment as a way of showing the importance of donations to the annual campaign that delivers food, clothing, blankets and toys to thousands of low-income area residents. Operation Holiday gives away Dillons gift cards for $35, plus a turkey (donated by Cargill), 10-pound sack of potatoes and bag of dry goods to recipients.

My conclusion: $35 goes a long way, but not without a little strategizing. Food has gotten more expensive over the past few years for a variety of reasons. Fortunately, supermarkets still offer a lot of seasonal specials.

I had a couple of goals in mind beyond staying within the budget. First, of course, the dishes had to be holiday-table worthy. Second, I wanted to offer something other than the usual line-up of green casserole, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy. Third, the dishes should be easy to prepare, since kitchen stress is about the last thing needed over the holidays. And finally, a few healthy options wouldn't be out of place at a time when opportunities for not-so-healthy foods typically multiply.

One confession: I had the help of students in Butler Community College's culinary program preparing this food for a news conference kicking off this year's Operation Holiday campaign. But I think they're well within the skill range of any home cook.

Whether you're the giver or recipient of an Operation Holiday food gift, we here at Neighbors hope all your holiday meals are festive ones!



Sweet potatoes are nutritionally superior to regular spuds and brighten up a table as well. Enjoy them for their own flavor and you'll never cover them with marshmallows and maple syrup again.

3 lb. sweet potatoes

1/2 stick butter

3-4 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup milk

Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions: Peel and half or quarter sweet potatoes. Boil in water until tender, about 20 minutes. When cool enough to handle, slip taters out of skins.

In large pan, melt butter, add garlic and saute until fragrant and soft. Add milk and potatoes, using masher, fork or large spoon to break up potatoes. Continue mashing until mixture is smooth, adding more melted butter and milk if necessary to achieve desired texture. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve. Note: These can be prepared a day in advance and then baked at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes prior to serving.



This recipe and the one below give your guests something to munch on while your Aunt Agnes skims the fat from the gravy. Fresh chopped cilantro is a great addition if your budget allows.

1 can black beans, drained

1 can pinto beans, drained

1 can yellow corn, drained

1/2 red onion, chopped

1/2 green bell pepper, chopped

1 jalapeno, seeded and minced

Juice of 1 large lime

Salt and pepper

Tortilla chips, for serving

Directions: Combine all ingredients except the chips and let marinate several hours in the refrigerator, for the flavors to combine. Serve with chips.



Impress your guests with a fancy French cooking term. Jam or preserves can be substituted for the caramelized onion if available.

1 block (8oz.) cream cheese

1 tube (8 oz.) refrigerated crescent roll dough

1/2 onion, peeled and cut into thin slices

2 tablespoons olive oil or butter

1 egg, beaten

Crackers, for serving

Directions: in a skillet, melt butter and saute onion over medium-low heat until caramelized, about 10 minutes. The onion should be brown (not black) and starting to break down. Season lightly with salt and pepper, remove from pan and cool.

Unroll crescent roll dough into a rectangle. Spread caramelized onion over a space as big as the block of cream cheese, then place the cream cheese on top of the onion. Pull the dough up and around the cream cheese and pinch to seal.

Turn the dough-enclosed cream cheese over and place on a baking sheet. If desired, decorate the top with any leftover dough. Bake at 375 degrees about 13 minutes or until golden brown. Serve with crackers.



This Cajun-inspired recipe uses up the liver from the bag of giblets that comes with your turkey. You didn't think we'd let that go to waste, did you?

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 onion, chopped

1/2 jalapeno, seeded and minced

2 cups long-grain rice

4 cups chicken broth

1 bag (10 oz.) frozen vegetables

1 turkey liver

Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions: Warm olive in medium sauce pan. Saute onion and jalapeno about 3 minutes, or until onion is soft. Add rice, stir just until kernels are coated with oil. Add broth, bring mixture to boil, then reduce and simmer 5 minutes. Remove top of pan and add frozen veggies, then re-cover and continue simmering about 10 minutes or until rice is tender.

Meantime, heat a little more olive oil in a small skillet and saute turkey liver about four minutes, or until done. Chop finely and add to rice mixture. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.



Another nutritional powerhouse, Brussels sprouts are also one of the trendiest foods around, increasingly finding a place on restaurant menus.

2 lbs. Brussels Sprouts

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

Directions: Trim base end off Brussels sprouts and cut in half if large. Toss with olive oil and season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook in 400-degree oven about 30 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally, or until sprouts are tender and charred in spots and serve.



If you enjoy a bit of spice, add a minced jalapeno to this recipe.

1 box (8.5 oz.) Jiffy or other cornbread mix

1 egg

1/3 cup milk

1 cup sour cream

1 can (14.5 oz.) creamed corn

1 can (14.5 oz.) whole kernel corn, drained

Directions: Combine all ingredients and bake at 350 degrees for 45-60 minutes or or until toothpick inserted in center comes out dry.



A local restaurant owner who shall remain nameless showed me this trick for her huge and delicious "homemade" rolls years ago.

24 frozen dinner rolls

Melted butter

Directions: Place two frozen rolls in each compartment of a cupcake baking pan that has been lightly greased. Cover and let rise in a warm place until rolls have doubled in size. Bake at 350 degrees about 15 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pan when still warm and brush with melted butter.



Boxed baking mixes such as Ghiradelli have gotten so good that they almost make from-scratch baking redundant. A tip for producing even moister brownies is to add an extra tablespoon of oil to amount called for in directions on the box.

1 box (18 to 20 oz.) Ghiradelli double dark chocolate brownie mix (or other favorite brand), prepared according to directions

1 bar (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened

1 egg

1/3 cup sugar

Directions: Prepare brownie mix according to directions and place in pan. In separate bowl, combine cream cheese, egg and sugar. Drop cream mixture onto brownie mixture by spoonfuls and swirl into mixture. Bake at 350 degrees about 40 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out dry.


Joe Stumpe is a culinary instructor at Butler Community College and former food editor of the Wichita Eagle.



* Stock up on all those items -- butter, sugar, nuts, canned and frozen vegetables, cake mixes -- that go sale during the holiday season. They will keep for months properly stored. And don't forget to grab a second turkey, probably the best deal of all this time of year. It'll hold in the freezer as well until you're not sick of it again.

* If you know you're going to have leftovers, here are two ideas for dressing them: 1.) Meat pie. Pie refrigerated pie crusts. Layer turkey, potatoes, dressing, etc. in bottom shell, top with gravy and second crust, bake. It's that simple. 2.) Mole. It's sold in little bottles in the Hispanic aisle of the supermarket. Mix with water or chicken broth, add leftover turkey and serve over rice for a great (and quite authentic) Mexican entree.

Program Center, 829 N Market, Wichita, KS 67214|(316) 264-9303