After a rough start to the Food Outreach Hunger Challenge, I am happy to report that days 2 and 3 of the challenge have been a bit brighter for The Chef and I (to learn more about our participation in the hunger challenge, read my introductory post for all of the details).
Our planned menus for these two days pretty much accomplished what I had hoped to achieve when starting this challenge: to eat nutritious meals made from good, clean food and to also be satisfied at the end of the day. I say “pretty much” though because I had also hoped to have a variety of meals and foods throughout the challenge, but I quickly learned that shopping with a limited budget automatically leaves you with limited meal choices, which means we’re eating the same things over and over … and since we didn’t have any money to buy spices, we’re only flavoring our food with salt and pepper.
Please, please, please don’t mistake this is as whining; I know that any food, seasoned or not, is better than no food when you’re hungry. It just never crossed my mind until we went shopping for the challenge how little flexibilty in meal preparation we would have; what we purchased is what we have to eat. Have a craving for something different? Too bad because there isn’t any money left to buy something else.
One of the things I love about food is the pleasure eating brings; trying new foods, new flavors, and new recipes is something I enjoy and look forward to each week. These last few days, I’ve found myself more appreciative of food, but (with the exception of dinner last night) not necessarily enjoying each meal as I usually do. This made me wonder … do people living on food stamps derive pleasure from their meals or is eating just a means to an end, ie, is it just fuel to make it through the day? I truly hope these questions don’t come off as condescending; I am honestly interested in understanding more about their experience.
So, what have we been eating? Here’s the rundown:
Breakfast Day 2: Cooked oatmeal made with 2% milk and topped with organic trail mix
Lunch Day 2: Leftover brown rice and edamame (from Day 1) with a baked chicken drumstick
Dinner Day 3: Spicy “Southwestern” soup made with Whole Foods dried soup base, organic pinto beans, ground turkey, and tomatillo salsa
Breakfast Day 3: Breakfast burritos made with organic tortillas, “refried” beans (made from the organic pinto beans leftover from last night’s dinner), scrambled eggs, and tomatillo salsa
Lunch Day 3: Leftover “Southwestern” bean soup
Dinner Day 3: Baked chicken drumsticks, rice pilaf, and roasted organic green beans and sweet potatoes
Of all the meals we ate, the spicy “Southwestern” soup made with Whole Foods dried “Southwest” soup base, organic pinto beans, and ground turkey was by far my favorite. It was hearty, flavorful, nutritious … and inexpensive. The recipe we created (posted here) made 10 cups and cost $6.72, which means each generous 2 cup serving is only $1.34. This soup will definitely be making an appearance in our house again.
While most of meals weren’t the most creative or flavorful, I have to say that I wasn’t that hungry either day, which was a great improvement over day one. Here’s to the rest of the challenge and the lessons still to be learned.
Spicy Southwestern Bean Soup
1/4 pound dried pinto beans
1/2 pound dried “Southwest” soup mix (from Whole Foods bulk section; approximately 1 cup)
1 small onion, diced
1 small jalapeno, diced
1/2 pound ground turkey
1/2 cup tomatillo salsa
1. Cover pinto beans with water and soak overnight.
2. When ready to make soup, combine 5 cups water with soup mix in a large pot. Saute onion and jalapeno in a small saucepan; when tender add to soup.
3 Simmer soup mix for 1 hour. At the same time, simmer beans in their soaking liquid (in a separate pot) for 1 hour.
4. Drain pinto beans; reserving 2 cups liquid. Add beans and reserved liquid to soup; continue to simmer for 20 minutes.
5. Brown ground turkey in small saucepan; when browned, add salsa.
6. When soup mixture is done simmering, add turkey and salsa mixture. Turn off burner; let stand 30 minutes.
7. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper if necessary; serve.
Notes: The recipe requires some advanced planning since the beans must be soaked overnight; if you forget to soak your beans though, you can easily substitute 2 cans of pinto beans (rinsed) and two extra cups of water.