A Word about Healing Foods Project from Larry LoVerde, Kitchen Manager of McAuley House Meal Site

When Dr. Mary Flynn’s recipes were first presented to me for use at the McAuley House meal site, I was struck by the beautiful simplicity of them. The vegetables and beans, along with the extra virgin olive oil, are the stars of her dishes. Because the Healing Foods Project recipes are so uncluttered, whoever is doing the cooking can adapt them with ethnic and regional flavors to suit the tastes of their guests.

As Kitchen Manager, I am impressed by how quick and easy these recipes are to prepare. In addition, if you find that you suddenly have more people to feed than expected, additional beans and legumes are a snap to sauté to stretch the meal.

My greatest concern when we began the Healing Foods Project’s plant-based meals several times a week was how our guests would respond to meals that were not based on meat. In a very short time, our guests, numbering up to 300 a day, began to accept and then enjoy these new meals. Now we actually have guests requesting extra virgin olive oil on their tables for dipping.

Looking back at the nearly two years we’ve been serving Healing Foods, I take great pleasure in the fact that we are contributing to the overall health of our guests, not merely filling bellies. We are helping people to look at food differently and perhaps to make some better choices in their diet.

The Basics and Foods of Healing Foods Project Recipes

iStock_000019780142_LargeThe main foods that are used in Healing Foods Project recipes are:

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Canned vegetables (carrots, corn, green beans, peas and tomato)
  • Frozen vegetables (broccoli, corn, peas, spinach)
  • Whole wheat pasta and brown rice
  • Canned beans/legumes (black, garbanzo, kidney, white cannellini)


Per serving, the recipes for the Healing Foods Project program follow a basic formula:

  • Approximately one-and-a-half tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup (2 servings) of vegetables
  • 3 to 4 ounces (dry weight) of starch


You can use this combination to create your own recipes depending on what you have on-hand. You can also easily increase a recipe that is already cooked if more guests arrive than expected.

Ingredient Substitutions in Healing Foods Meals

Preparing food in a non-profit meal site or soup kitchen has its own challenges, one of which is that you don’t always know what you’ll have on hand to cook. An unexpected donation can change your day. Below are some helpful ingredient substitutions that have worked well at McAuley House, and that we wanted to share.

  • While preparing the Spinach, Beans and Pasta meal, a local farmer dropped off two cases of fresh kale. The spinach went back into the freezer and we substituted sautéed kale into the recipe. It came out great!
  • At McAuley House, we’ve found that the Corn, Black Beans and Tomato Fried Rice recipe is a great example of a substitution-friendly meal. A little chili powder, crushed tomato and cumin quickly turn it into veggie chili. And, we’ve been known to throw in “whatever there’s a lot of” on occasion, which is particularly true in the summer when fresh vegetable donations are bountiful.
  • With the Vegetable Lo Mein dish, we had recently received a donation of Vietnamese pho soup base (which has flavors of lemon grass and lime) and water chestnuts. The result was a wonderful Asian stir-fry with noodles.


Please know that this is just a guide to some ingredient substitutions we’ve had success with. Use your instincts and imagination; you know what tastes good together. Just be sure to use good extra virgin olive oil, the recipes in the cookbook, and lots of love!

To download the complete Healing Foods Project Cookbook, click here. Hard copy cookbooks are available upon request by emailing healingfoodsproject@mcauleyri.org.