We’ve been so busy here at The Campus Kitchens Project that we haven’t had a chance to update you on Laura’s SNAP Challenge. Here are excerpts from her documentation of how the challenge has gone on days 2 through 4.
Yesterday was a hungry day. I think one of the toughest things about doing the SNAP challenge is that you have to start with a clean slate. If there’s one thing that The Campus Kitchens Project can teach people, it’s the value of leftovers. I always have leftovers in the fridge, and incorporate them into new meals, so starting out the week with literally nothing but a shopping trip was tough.
Last night, in addition to making dinner, I started a few projects to get set up for the week. Dinner was roast chicken with potatoes and onions. As usual, we ate the leg quarters of the chicken for dinner and saved the breast for another use. The wings are reserved for lunch with our miso soup today. While I was roasting the potatoes, I made four extra which I grated and turned into gnocchi, frozen and ready for Wednesday night.
After dinner, we cut the backbone out of the chicken and roasted it flat, using the backbone, gizzards, onion, carrot and parsnip to make stock. On a whim I threw the roasted potato skins in as well that I had peeled off to make the gnocchi. The stock will go into the butternut squash soup tonight, and in black beans later in the week.
After yesterday, I have leftovers! Every Campus Kitchen volunteer’s favorite thing.
Last night’s meal was focused on getting some good vegetables into our system after the chicken and potatoes dinner we had. We turned some stock into butternut squash soup with kale, carrots and corn. We have four pints of soup left over – lunch for two days.
We also had a lot of fun baking a crusty loaf of Italian bread. We didn’t have quite as much fun rationing the bread so it would last through the week. The idea is to save some for tonight’s gnocchi dinner and some for the strata (egg and bread casserole) that I’m making later in the week.
Soup is one of the best approaches to eating healthy food on a budget. Yesterday was a bit of a soup overload between having miso soup for lunch and butternut squash soup for dinner. But we have both been surprised how satisfying miso soup can be when loaded up with scallions, ginger and a few small greens or a single sliced white mushroom. A bit of miso paste lasts a long time.
Conversation last night turned to the fact that while we’re eating on a SNAP budget, we have a lot of tools and equipment in the kitchen that help make it possible. Some on SNAP might not have any resources at all. It was a bit comical to bake our own bread (in a Le Creuset pot) and have soup for dinner (but whip out the immersion blender to puree it).
Last night was the biggest risk of the SNAP meal plan: homemade gnocchi. As I was creating the meal plan, my plan was to make pasta. However, I realized that with all the potatoes I had, gnocchi would be a better plan. I’ve heard horror stories about how hard it is to make. So I tackled making the gnocchi on the very first night, just in case I had to do it twice, and tossed it in the freezer.
If you read my meal plan, you’ll know I was planning to make gnocchi with garlic tomato sauce. On our last trip to the grocery store yesterday, we discovered that we didn’t have the money left to buy tomatoes. We purchased cheddar cheese, broccoli, tortillas and eggs, and then found we were coming up short.
One of my favorite things about the SNAP program is that it can be used to purchase seeds. To highlight that great aspect of the program, I’m allowing myself to use food that I have grown from seed on my windowsill. Thanks to a couple of very green thumbs (not mine), this currently includes massive amounts of basil. We caramelized some onions, added a pseudo-pesto of basil and garlic and used that for the sauce. On the side, another piece of awesome homemade bread.