year of kindness challenge: week 8

Happy Monday, friends!

I spent this past weekend in Louisville for a literature & culture conference at the University of Louisville. I presented a paper on Saturday morning, and then Mike and I stayed an extra day to take in the sights and have a mini “vacation.” We had so much fun! Louisville is only a few hours south of where we live in Indiana, but it felt very different there — warmer weather, lots of fun shops and new restaurants to explore, and that lovely Southern twang! If you’ve never been there, I would definitely recommend it as a great city to check out! We are already talking about going back sometime in the spring or summer.

Another novelty about the weekend? Both Mike and I left our computers at home and neither of us have smartphones, so we were Internet-free for two days. It was a nice break to be “off the grid” for a little bit! We both returned home feeling recharged. I don’t really think of myself as someone who wastes time online — usually when I’m online, I’m checking emails or reading blogs or looking up recipes or reading submissions for Sycamore Review, etc etc etc — but in the past few weeks I’ve found myself checking my email and going online perhaps more often than I need to. I think it’s easy to fall into “Internet autopilot” and feel like we must be constantly engaged with the web, staying updated, checking posts … and all of that can just be exhausting after a while, you know? It was such a relief to lie down on the hotel bed, crack open a good novel and not feel like there was anything else I was “supposed” to be doing. I think Mike and I are going to try to “unplug” more often as part of our weekend routine!

Now, on to the kindness! 🙂

year of kindness button

Last week’s kindness challenge was to drop off a donation of canned goods to a food pantry, homeless shelter, or soup kitchen. This idea came when I was thinking about how we often hear a number of opportunities to donate food to the hungry during Thanksgiving and Christmas, but it seems donation efforts die down once the holiday season has come and gone.

My first step was to go through my cupboards and pantry and find a variety of nonperishable food items to donate. As you can see, a lot of tomato-based products made the list, since I have made a big effort the past few months to fully weed out tomatoes from our diet. {Nothing against tomatoes! But Mike is allergic.}

cans from pantry

Then I picked up some canned veggies at the grocery store to round out the donation, and put everything into a big bag! {Note to self: next time, use two smaller bags. Mike helped me carry carried this big bag to my car for me.}

food donation bag

A quick Internet search brought up multiple food pantries in Lafayette, including one just a five-minute drive from campus. I dropped Mike off at school and zoomed over to the food pantry before I had to teach my class. Like last week when I dropped off Valentines to the nursing home, this only took me a short time, but it brightened my whole day! The woman working at the food pantry was SO surprised and grateful for my drop-by donation. I definitely plan to go back and make more donations in the future. It was a drizzly, cold, gray day, but walking back to my car afterwards I swear the world seemed sunnier. Every week of this project just proves to me more and more how being kind to others brings so much kindness and joy into your own life.

A reader emailed me that instead of donating food this past week, they donated toiletries to a women’s shelter. I think that is such a great idea that I am officially making it the Week 8 Kindness Challenge: donate toiletries to a women’s shelter or homeless shelter. Are you someone who stocks up on those free hotel soaps and shampoos and lotions? Why not clean out your stash by donating it to those in need? Or pick up an extra bottle of your favorite shampoo/conditioner/body wash next time you’re at the store and bring it by a shelter in your area. I know it will be appreciated!

Blog about your experiences and include your links in the comments section below, or feel free to send me an email at dallaswoodburn <AT> gmail <DOT> com.

Have a marvelous week!


year of kindness archives:
– week 1 challenge: donate items to those in need
– week 2 challenge: leave quarters & note at laundry machine
– week 3 challenge: write & send a kind handwritten note
– week 4 challenge: give hot chocolate to someone outside in the cold
– week 5 challenge: do something kind for a neighbor
– week 6 challenge: deliver valentines to a nursing home
week 7 challenge: donate to a food pantry

the pantry challenge + white chicken chili with corn muffins recipe

Confession: my pantry is a bit of a jumbled mess.

I’ve tried organizing it multiple times, but no matter how I sort through all of the cans, jars and boxes, it always looks messy. I finally realized the problem is that I simply have too much stuff crammed in there! So many cans and boxes and mixes that it’s impossible to even know everything that I have. So when I go to the store, I inevitably buy new cans and jars of stuff that is already buried in the back of my pantry. What a waste!

So, inspired by this post by Jill at the lovely blog Reini Days, I’ve made a resolution to use up all the food in my pantry that I already have. I’m not going quite so hardcore as Jill and her family did — I am still giving myself permission to buy new food and ingredients that I don’t currently have if necessary. But I will make an effort each week when doing my meal-planning to make recipes centered around ingredients that already live in my pantry before I go out and buy new things at the store.

The other night, I got my new pantry challenge off to a great start when I made a big batch of chili! I had friends over for Labor Day dinner and I made two big pots of chili. Look at all the cans & boxes from my pantry that I used in this single night:

Count ’em! That’s eight cans and two boxes for a total of ten items that were languishing in my overstuffed pantry! Perfect way to kick off the challenge I’ve set for myself.

Since I had seven friends over, I made two big pots of chili. In one pot, I made a tomato chili recipe from my mom that I am looking forward to sharing with you in the near future. In the other pot, I made a white chicken chili that was delicious and is perfect for anyone who is sensitive to high-acid foods such as tomatoes or suffers from heartburn because this chili is tomato-free! This is the recipe I’m going to share today. I call it “California-style” because I think it’s best served with sliced avocado on top!

california-style white chicken chili

– 1 package chicken breasts or chicken breast tenderloins
– 1 green bell pepper
– 1 orange or yellow bell pepper
– 1 tsp mixed garlic
– 1 tbsp olive oil
– 1 can white beans {I used organic great northern beans}
– 1 can corn
– 1 package white chili seasoning
– 1/4 cup water
– 1 medium avocado

1. Pour the olive oil and garlic into the bottom of a large pot. Turn heat on low. Dice the bell peppers and pour into the pot. Cook for 5-10 minutes, until pepper begins to soften.

2. While pepper is cooking, cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces and set aside.

3. Drain the can of beans and corn and pour both into the pot.

4. Add the chicken, water and white chili spice packet and bring chili to a boil.

5. Turn heat down a little and simmer the chili for 20-30 minutes {or longer if you have the time … the chili gets more and more flavorful the longer you cook it. YUM!}

6. Before serving, top chili with diced avocado if desired.

My friend Xun who came over for dinner absolutely loves cornbread, so I served the chili with corn muffins, which were super easy to make. I just used a Jiffy boxed cornbread mix and poured the batter into muffin tins instead of a bread pan.

jiffy corn muffins

– 1 package jiffy cornbread mix
– 1 small can corn
– 1 egg
– 1/3 cup milk or buttermilk

1. Preheat over to 400 degrees.

2. Combine cornbread mix, egg and milk.

3. Drain can of corn and add to the batter. Mix thoroughly.

4. Pour batter into paper-lined muffin tin and bake for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.

Each box of mix yields about six muffins. For our get-together, I used two boxes and doubled the ingredients.

These were fantastic! We had a bit of each kind of chili left-over, but the corn muffins were all gobbled up by the night’s end!

It was a really fun night, and chili is such a relaxing meal to cook — all you really need to do is plop all the ingredients in the pot and let it simmer until you’re ready to eat. Perfect for having people over and wanting to spend your time visiting rather than slaving away in a hot kitchen.

So, does anyone else want to join the challenge with me? I’m excited to update you on my progress as I try out new recipes to clear out my pantry!

Have a great day–


-Time spent: 1 hour {including cook time}
-Cost: about $10 {though I had almost all the ingredients in my pantry already, hooray!}

This post is linked up to Menu-Plan Monday at I’m an Organizing Junkie!