There is Hope! Touching Lives through Cooking

As our nation is faced with this COVID-19 pandemic, millions of Americans are perhaps for the first time in their lives having to worry about how they will feed their families. How they will pay for their rent or mortgage. They worry about the daily uncertainty, not truly knowing what tomorrow will bring. Will we have a roof over our heads? A job to pay our bills? Is there money left in the bank account to buy food?

For most of the 70-80 youth who age out of the Arizona foster care system every month, this is their reality every day, not just during this time of crisis. Most youth age out of the system when they turn 18 without a family or a support system, and without the skills needed to make it on their own. They might age out of the foster care system with no home to go to, without a job, and with very little or no money. Statistics show that within 2 years of aging out of the foster care system, 2 out of 3 foster youth will be homeless, in jail, or dead. Let that sink in for a moment. 2 out of 3 foster youth will be homeless, in jail, or dead by their 20th birthday.

I’ve had the unique opportunity to meet and speak to youth who were homeless, who slept on benches or sidewalks, and worked until they had enough money to share a small apartment with someone. I meet youth who are enrolled in college or a vocational school and work part or full time. They have very tight budgets and they struggle to make ends meet but they are resilient. They learn to penny pinch and stretch every dollar they have to their name. They give me hope! They teach me to see the beauty amidst the brokenness that comes from languishing for years in foster homes or institutions. They’ve had no choice but to live frugally.

As a full time volunteer and president of ASA Now I’ve had the honor and privilege to partner with ASU First Star, Foster Arizona, and other organizations to offer our Life Skills for Teens program which prepares youth for independence into adulthood and empowers those who have aged out to rise above the grim statistics and write their own success stories.

Recipes shared during our life skills cooking classes are recipes that can be made with inexpensive and nutritious ingredients. Today I’d like to share a few of these recipes in the hope that it may bless your lives or that you may share this information to bless someone else’s life.

There are 14,000 children currently in foster care in Arizona. They have names, they have potential, and they are counting on all of us to do something.

We invite the community to walk alongside us as we are given the rare opportunity to help change the trajectory of these precious children’s lives. To learn more about our community center in Mesa, our volunteer opportunities and those of our community partners, please visit us at

With Gratitude,


Anika Robinson



Classic Rolled Oatmeal:


1 cup uncooked rolled oats (if needed you can buy from bulk section at WinCo)

2 cups of water (or 1 cup water and 1 cup milk)

1 ripe banana (mashed in a bowl)

1 diced apple (reserve some for topping)

1 tsp cinnamon

Walnuts (optional)



Grab a saucepan, pot or pan, turn the stove to medium heat. Add rolled oats and water to pot or pan. Bring to a boil gradually (this will only take a few minutes). While water is warming, cut and dice an apple and mash your banana with a fork. Add apples, bananas and cinnamon to pan. Once mixture boils, reduce heat to low and let simmer uncovered for 3-5 minutes. When oats have thickened, remove from heat and let cool slightly.

For added flavor and nutrition, top oatmeal with remaining diced apple and sprinkle with a little cinnamon. Not budget friendly but if you can afford it, buy a handful of walnuts at WinCo bulk section to add healthy omegas and fats.

No stove top, no problem! Simply cut the apple and banana in small pieces and put them in a microwave bowl. Add the oatmeal, milk or water, and cinnamon and stir. Cook it in the microwave for 5 minutes.


Barley and Celery Soup


2 Tbs. oil

2 cloves garlic (minced)

1/3 of an onion (diced)

1/2 of the celery stalks in your bunch (chopped)

1 carrot

12 cups water

4 bouillon cubes

1 lb. barley (bulk section at WinCo)

1 1/2 cups frozen broccoli

Handful cilantro (chopped)

Red chili flakes to taste (optional)



In a large pot, sauté garlic and onions for a minute and then add celery and carrots. Add the rest of the ingredients and boil on medium-high until barley is fully cooked (around 25 minutes). (Makes 4-6 servings)


Crockpot Beans


6 cups pinto beans

1  large onion cut in fourths

2  whole heads of garlic (peeled)

12-16 cups water (just below the rim)



Put all ingredients in a crockpot, fill with water and cook on high for 6 hours.

*To make refried beans, blend all of the ingredients in the crockpot with a handheld blender or use a potato masher. There will be plenty of water to mush them. They will dry some as they cool.


Mexican Rice


⅓ cup of oil

3 cups of jasmine, basmati or white rice

5 cups water (room temperature)

1 onion chopped into small pieces

1 cup tomato sauce

Salt and pepper to taste or substitute salt with Mexican Knorr chicken flavor bouillon or tomato bouillon (makes it taste way better)



  1. Heat oil in a deep saute pan over medium-high heat. Add rice. Cook rice, stirring constantly for several minutes, until the rice begins to turn golden in color.
  2. Reduce heat to low, gently pour in the water, then tomato sauce and stir. Stir in the chopped onion, tomato sauce, salt (or bouillon) and pepper. Turn heat back up to medium-high, bring to a boil, then reduce to low and cover. Simmer for 20 minutes, or until all the water has been absorbed.
  3. Turn off the heat, fluff rice then let it sit, covered, for 5-10 minutes before serving.


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