13 March 2011

Sunday - Cooking for the Week

This is something I usually do on a Sunday, prep a bunch of meals for the week. I have a fairly hectic life, and while we're in negotiations (as now) I can count on getting a lunch provided at the office (so that we can work through the time), on the SNAP Challenge I'm not allowed to accept that. I have to pack my own lunches. So I'm doing my regular lunch-prep, but with my SNAP-limited pantry.

First, a shot of what I had for breakfast today:

Cheese omelet with herbs and toast. The herbs were dry and so was the toast, since my pantry has no butter or margarine. But the melted cheese inside the omelet spread nicely on the toast. I don't usually eat toast this pale, and had thought of making fried potatoes - but that came at the end of omelet-making and I know better than to leave the eggs to stand. So very fast toast it was!

I learned to make omelet from Julia Child's original TV show, which was rerun on our local PBS station when I was a kid. It was in the afternoon, after school and before supper. My result might not win kudos on "Worst Chefs in America" because it was folded in halves, not thirds (small pan made the eggs thickish) and for the crispy bits on the left that I didn't trim away. But I like the crispy bits!

Lunch was a bit of this and that, as I followed my usual weekend practice of making a couple things that I put into boxes for quick lunches. No need to have peanut butter sandwiches every day! I riffed on a baked rice casserole one grandmother taught me decades ago, mixing three-quarters of a cup of lentils and a cup and a half of rice in the casserole. I chopped half of my little onion and sauteed it in a bit of oil, added that and herbs, lots of water, and cooked until all done and the water was gone. Then I mixed in the package of frozen mixed vegetables and the one of turnip greens. Four portions went into boxes for lunches, and the remainder (about half a portion) became part of my lunch. I also boiled four of the eggs, to make them easy to carry, and as is typical for my family added a shot of food colouring to the water so it's easy to tell which is raw and which is cooked in the carton.

I do still have a couple portions of the beans-and-corn stew I made yesterday, seasoned with garlic-pepper-salt and chili powder:

It's not really chili, so I won't call it that, nor a succotash. It's decent, not great. Went together fast. It could be a side dish if I didn't need it for a main course. Filling, cheap, protein and fiber.

For supper tonight, I am thinking of a half-batch of macaroni and cheese. I don't have dried mustard in the pantry, but in existing condiments (allowed in the challenge, moderately) I do have made mustard, and might try a small spoonful of that instead. No butter either, I will sub oil or leave it out entirely. We'll see how this works.

I had a bit of discussion with a friend about my cooking. As someone who likes to cook, it's natural that I would try to make things that are more of a recipe than just buy fourteen one-dollar (or less) cans of soup or canned ravioli or something. Or I could have bought a lot of boxed mac-n-cheese and margarine and milk and eaten that all week. I would not be happy with that, however, and I wanted to show that some creativity is possible even on a limited pantry. You can find a recipe index at the USDA website that allows you to put in a specific ingredient or two - something similar to my rice-and-lentil casserole is on the site. It's harder to feel deprived when you can eat things that are more-or-less like a proper meal, such as the omelet. If I were in a group doing this, I know I can cook well, and there would be much more variety. If I had flour in my "pantry" I would definitely make some gnocchi, but for now that would have to wait for a future week, if I continue.

Already I am missing things, particular raisins and fruit. There are raisins in my cereal, but I often grab a handful as a sweet treat, especially the three-raisin mix I pick up at BJ's. I do the same with almonds, but I haven't missed them yet. I also miss having a lot of fresh fruit and veggies around to snack on. Making the bag of apples last all week limits me to two a day, hardly enough to fill my usual consumption. I am already looking forward to next weekend, and I may spend Sunday eating nothing but fruit! Except perhaps for a hotdog at the hockey game. Yesterday I went to a maple sugar festival, and couldn't sample any of the pancakes or baked beans they served - outside my budget.

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