Monday, March 3, 2014

SNAP Challenge continued

It is Day 4 of SNAP Challenge.

The yogurt I made is running low and so are my fresh fruits.  As much as I tried to space it out carefully, I consumed the fruits when I was hungry. It seems that the last couple days of the SNAP Challenge are going to be the most difficult with the least choices.  I have 2 cups of yogurt left and 3 days of breakfast.  I have 1 banana and 2 apples left. I am  definitely NOT eating the government recommendations of 5 fruits and vegetables or 3 glasses of milk a day.  I am really wishing I bought eggs because I am getting tired of eating yogurt and oats each morning.  However, I am getting more creative with the few items I have left in the panty.  Oatmeal cookie made with oats, banana and a teaspoon of sugar, cool right?

My boyfriend Ian is not doing the SNAP challenge with me and needless to say I am getting very envious of the expensive cheeses and crackers I've seen him eat. I also found about 1/2 cup of yogurt left in the sink that he didn't eat this morning.  It was upsetting to see food go to waste especially knowing I am running low on my own food.  It's sad to think about the piles and piles of food that is wasted in this world, especially in the catering business.

Day 4 Breakfast:

On another note, I am lucky I am at home studying and have a little time to spare to prepare some of these food items.  If I was working 7 days a week, I wouldn't have the luxury of preparing yogurt, dried beans or oat bars.  If I wasn't at home to cook, my weekly shopping items would have been more processed and not as healthy.  With that being said, time to stop talking SNAP and time to start studying...



With $9 left to spend, I figured I could buy some fresh fruits and vegetables at the farmers market.

Local vegetables in the wintertime are coming out of cold storage and they are limited.  Fresh local vegetables are grown in outdoor greenhouses and prices are higher.  Kale was $8 per pound, mixed greens for $12 a pound and brussel sprouts $5 a pound. I had to make smart choices to make my $9 stretch.  I bought apples at $1.75 per pound costing me $2.90 for 4 large apples and a huge head of purple cabbage for $3.  There were no dark leafy greens that I could afford, so I decided to buy $2 per pound carrots, coming out to $2.90 for 2 large carrots.

All and all, I spent $33.36, with .64 cents left to spare.  I was really hoping to save an extra $2 in case I ran out of rice and needed to buy pasta during the week.  Usually I leave the farmers market in euphoria, with a bag full of fresh local goodies, but as I left today, I couldn't help but wonder how careless I was with my money.   I kept thinking how many more vegetables I could have gotten for $7 if I went back to Ctown or La Placita mini market.  Seeking out the lowest fruits and vegetables at the farmers market, I still found that I wasn't getting enough food for my money.  I now have my food for the week and I need to stop worrying. If I were on SNAP, I would have to be more careful with my choices in subsequent weeks.

Day # 2 Breakfast:

Friday, February 28, 2014


As part of a requirement for my Community Nutrition class, I am partaking in the SNAP challenge, also known as food stamps more info here, eating on a budget of $32 for 1 week.  The purpose of the SNAP challenge is to experience what it feels like to eat on the tight budget, as a person relying on SNAP benefits does. As a student already on a tight budget I feel ready for the challenge, however; I am quickly realizing the constraints I will face.

Day 1 of SNAP Challenge:



My morning routine of brewing a pot of organic fair trade $10 coffee was put to a halt as I started the SNAP challenge.  My expensive organic products would stay in the cabinets until the challenge is finished in 7 days. Although I am on a tight budget working part-time and in debt working towards a Masters degree in Nutrition, eating wholesome fresh foods has always been a priority of mine, even if it meens spending a little extra on organic foods.  All of my spending money goes to grocery shopping and I don't spend much money elsewhere.I realized as I started the SNAP challenge today, there were many things I would be sacrificing.  Organic food, was the first thing I would be giving up.

All my food has to be purchased at a store that accepts SNAP benefits so I won't be able to purchase already prepared foods, unless I find processed snacks or frozen meals at the supermarket.  Since all of my meals have to be prepared at home, I carefully thought out my SNAP budget of $32. I realized what an inconvenience this week would pose as I am strapped for time with papers to write and tests to study for.  As I wrote my grocery list, one thing I decided I would absolutely not give up was coffee.  I rely on it to get my day started and my brain focused for schoolwork.  One thing was for sure, I would not be drinking my fancy $10 organic fair trade coffee when I only had $32 to spend.

I started my grocery shopping at La Placita Mini Market, a local central american market in Ossining.  I was able to get 2 bags of dried beans, 6 plantains, 2 avocados, and a bag of bananas for $9.68.  I continued on to C Town for more choices and bought bread, peanut butter, rice, oats, milk and coffee for $14.88.  I spent  over an hour between the 2 stores, trying to find the best prices and figure out what would nourish me best throughout the week.  One thing I decided I would not eat unless it was organic was eggs or milk. Since I couldn't afford both the milk and the eggs, I settled on the organic milk.  It was on sale for $4 and I could use it to make yogurt which would give me a hearty breakfast all week.  Yogurt it also much quicker than cooking eggs each morning and I can pick it if I am in a rush.  As a busy college student, I was also thinking about maximizing time.

The next hard choice for me was buying bread. I figured peanut butter sandwiches would be a filling choice and easy to pack for school and work.  I usually buy my bread at Mrs. Greens or the farmers market for $5 a loaf.  The bread I choose is a whole wheat organic bread made with only the basic ingredients: whole wheat flour, water, salt and yeast.  When I scanned the isle at Ctown, I noticed my choices were limited for my budget.  My choices were various white breads for $1-$2 or whole wheat bread's for $3.  My problem with the whole wheat breads in my price range was, they were not made with all whole wheat flour and they were loaded with sugar.  I didn't see the point in buying whole wheat bread if it had more sugar than white bread!  I must've switched between choices 5x because Ian, my boyfriend was complaining that he wanted to get home already.  After 20 minutes I finally settled on a sliced Italian white bread baked on Arthur Avenue with no added sugar  and minimal ingredients, $2.50.  I never realized how hard it would be to find something affordable that didn't have tons of ingredients and added sugar.

I went home and made myself a peanut butter and banana sandwich and thought about my choices.   I  had $7 left to spare and I figured I would go to the farmers market on Saturday to get the lowest price vegetables I could find.  New York City offers SNAP card holders are offered health buck coupons worth $2 when they spend $5 at the farmers market.  Our teacher was giving us the option to utilize this incentive program.  WIth the health bucks incentive program, My $7 becomes $9.  I plan to buy cabbage, carrots, apples and some sort of dark leafy green.  Let's see what I can afford tomorrow...

I have a pot of beans boiling now that I will eat for dinner in a few hours.  I don't have fresh garlic or onion to add to the pot, and I dont have any vegetables to eat with the rice and beans.  I will have to make due with what I have for the evening.  I am relying on a 100% vegetarian diet, which works for me because I am a vegetarian.  I'm going to be eating much of the same foods every day because that is what I could afford.   I won't be snacking and I won't be eating between meals.  I'm already feeling stressed about my limitations and I am further understanding the life of many people struggling in our country.    It isn't until you experience it, that you can truly understand.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Wait, you don't need a yogurt machine to make yogurt?

No, it's really much easier than I ever imagined.

1/2 gallon of whole milk
2 tablespoons of yogurt (this is the starter or live bacteria to help make the yogurt.  Look for a yogurt brand with live active cultures in it).

Tools needed:
2 quart size mason jars 
1 large sauce pan
meat thermometer
Cooler or a pot w/lid & bath towel
Optional: ladle and slotted spoon
Optional but recommend: reusable cheese cloth or sieve (This must be used to make greek yogurt)
strainer and bowl

1. Heat the milk in a large sauce pan on medium low heat until it reaches between 160-170 degrees.  Stir constantly so the milk doesn't scorch or stick to the pan.  Turn off burner and remove from heat.  
2.  Meanwhile, bring a large sauce pan of water to a boil.  Once the water reaches a rolling boil, lower the heat and place the empty mason jars (without the lids) into the saucepan.  Cover saucepan and let the jars sterilize for ten minutes.  With a slotted spoon carefully remove jars from water and place on the counter.  
3. Once the milk has cooled to 110 degrees, pour or ladle the milk into the mason jars leaving about 1/2 inch at the top.  Note: there may be a small amount of leftover milk. Add 1 tablespoon of yogurt to each mason jar.  Cover and shake gently so the yogurt gets incorporated into the milk.
4. **This step is crucial and the reason you don't need a yogurt machine.** Place the jars into a cooler and fill with warm water (110 degrees) until the jars are surrounded with water, just below the lids.  This is the happy temperature so the healthy bacteria will grow, giving you yogurt!  
5.  Leave the mason jars in the water bath for at least 4 hours. For a more tart yogurt, let them culture  for up to 16 hours.  It's important to check on the water every few hours and add hot water as needed to keep the temperature close to 110 degrees.
6. Open up the yogurt and smell.  If it smells like yogurt, refrigerate or proceed to step 7. Sometimes a batch can go bad by either contamination or overheating the yogurt. If it smells rotten or looks like cottage cheese, the batch went bad, don't eat! 
 7. For Greek yogurt: Place a bowl underneath a strainer.  Line the strainer with a reusable cheese cloth (a thin dish towel or a clean t-shirt will also work).  Pour the yogurt over the reusable cheese cloth. Place in the fridge, covered, allowing the yogurt to strain for 1-4 hours.  The yogurt will reduce in size to about half.  Discard the liquid byproduct and spoon yogurt back into mason jar.  Refrigerate and enjoy!

Finished product before straining into greek yogurt:

Greek yogurt final product:

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Mac & Cheese

Mac & Cheese - made with Harvarti Dill & Roasted Garlic

Personal Review
Operationally went extremely well. Once you know how to make a cheese sauce, you have it down. It's almost like riding a bike. You need a great flavored cheese for a good cheese sauce. I didn't love the Havarti as much as a cheddar or American, but it did work. The havarti I bought has a bittersweet taste (sort of like swiss). One thing I would change in the future of mac and cheese, is add more butter to the top of the breadcrumbs.

Pictures to come with future recipes!!!

Cheese Sauce
1/4 cup flour
1.5 tablespoons of butter
2.5 cups of whole milk (from the farmers market)!
1.5 cup of shredded Havarti Dill
2 garlic cloves (finely chopped)
1/4 cup of hard cheese (like parmigiana or Romano)
salt & cracked black pepper to taste
2 whole roasted garlics

1 pound of elbow shaped pasta
1/4 cup of breadcrumbs for topping
1 tablespoon of butter for topping

Start by melting the butter and add the garlic to the butter to soften. Add the flour and use a whisk and constantly whisk so it does not burn. Once the flour mixture lightly browns, add in the milk, 1 cup at a time. Continue to whisk. Let the mixture thicken as you continue to whisk and once it comes to a boil , remove it from the heat and add your cheeses. Remove the garlic pieces from the bulb and chop up as much as possible before adding it to the cheese mixture.

Lay the cooked pasta into a baking dish. Pour cheese mixture on top of the macaroni and cover completely. Stir into pasta. Pour breadcrumbs on top. Cut up butter and place pieces on top of breadcrumbs. Broil or bake on high for 10 min or so to get the top browned.

Remove, cool and Enjoy :)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Kale - 1st timer

Ian made me Kale tonight and it was the first time I ever had it. It is a green, leafy, rich, delicious and healthy vegetable. Some people may say it is bitter. extremely nutritional!

Cream of Potato Carrot Soup

The experimental Soup----

3 large carrots
6 small potatoes
1 handful of cilantro chopped
3 cups of water
2 cups of milk
1.5 tablespoons of butter
1 tablespoon of oil
1 small onion
salt/pepper and tony chachere spice added to taste

Parmesian type of cheese added on top for extra flavor

This dish was extremely excitng to make because it was my first time making soup and most of the ingredients I bought at the farmers market in Union Square.

Cheese is from Hawthorne Valley Farm - called Alpine, an aged cheese that tastes like parm/romano. It is not made with animal rennet, which is hard to find in these type of cheeses.

I browned the onions in veg oil. Then added carrots cut up as well as the potatoes and let cook for a few minutes. I then added the water and milk and let it cook for about 25 minutes. I let it cool for about 10 min and then added the mixture to a food processor/blendar to puree with the cilantro. I put back in the pot and cooked for another 30 min or so on a low flame, and added seasonings including salt, pepper & tony chachere (made of red pepper, salt, garlic powder)

I topped off in my individual bowl with the Alpine hard cheese. Defnitley came out well for a first time soup and would make it again! The only thing I would think about changing is possibly using more carrot, less potato and possbly more cilantro. Another idea is to roast a garlic or 2 and puree that with the soup mixture.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Crimini Mushroom Pasta sauce

1/2 pound linguini

Sauce for 2 bowls of pasta---

1-2 table spoons of butter
1/5 pound of crimini mushrooms
1/4 chopped fine onions
1 cup of milk
2 tablespoons of flower
Optional - parm cheese to finish off

Stir fry cut up mushrooms in butter and onions
seperately melt butter, add onions and then make a roux and add milk. Mix in mushrooms. Sauce will thicken , put onto pasta.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Morney Sauce

-20 chives
- 4 tablespoons of butter (could've used less but didn't hurt it either!)
-1 tsp of rosemary (next time needs to be chopped super fine so you don't bite into a whole seed)
-1 full roasted garlic
- 1 tablesppon of flower
-1 and 1/3 cup of milk
-16 oz or 1 package of sharp chedder
-2oz (4 slices) of deli munster cheese
-2 tsps of kosher salt
-cracked black pepper

Soften butter in microwave. Place butter, chives, roaemary and garlic into food processor. Then add to saucepan to melt completely. Add flower to butter mixture and whisk to make into roux. Once bubbly, add milk slowly and whisk. Bring to a boil and cook for 1 more minute. Take off heat and add cheeses and whisk together.

Soooo delicious.

Would change-
chop rosemary finer, tad less butter maybe

So I added this morney sauce to cooked cauliflower to bake in the oven. It seperated and became more liquidy in oven. need to figure out how to bake this.


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Stir Fry with baked tofu

Baked Tofu

-Firm Tofu sliced up 1 inch length, 1 cm thickness
-Marinade of choice (I used Sesame ginger) ~ my own marinade coming soon
-sesame seeds
-3 tablespoons of sesame oil

Cut up firm tofu. Put about a cup of flour in a tuberware container. Spread pieces of tofu throughout the flour in a tuberware container. Close the container and lightly shake so flour spreads over each piece of tofu. Spread marinade completely over each piece of tofu and place on baking sheet. Add sesame seeds. Cook until browned and marinade juice has obsorbed. Carefully flip. Add more marinade if needed and sprinkle with more sesame seeds. Cook until browned and marinade is dried up.

Stir Fry
1 brocoli head (chopped into large bite size pieces)
3-4 cups of cooked rice
1 large onion (chopped in think chunks)
6 garlic cloves (chopped fine)
2 tablespoons of sesame oil
soy sauce

Let oil heat up in pan. Once hot, add onions checks, stirring frequently. After onions have softened (not browned) add garlic. Add brocoli and stir frequently. When all the vegtables have a nice color, add the rice. Stir in Soy Sauce to taste & sesame ginger marinade.

~combine baked tofu to stir fry and enjoy a nice dinner :)

Monday, May 19, 2008

Homemade mac & cheese

My first recipe from scratch~~

Spinach Feta Cheddar Mac & Cheese

¾ cup milk (1%, use 2% or whole milk for richer taste)
6 tablespoon butter
½ cup Parmesan (grated)
8 oz sharp yellow cheddar (shredded)
4 oz white sharp cheddar(shredded)
4 oz feta (crumbled)
18 oz of frozen chopped spinach ( as little or as much as you would like0
1 LB pasta (spirals or elbows are a nice touch)
salt & pepper to taste

Cook 1 Lb. of pasta noodles~drain. In the hot pan that was used to cook the pasta, melt 4 tablespoons of butter. Add 1/4 cup of milk to melted butter. Stir in pasta noodles until the butter has coated all the noodles.

Turn the stove top on a low flame. Add frozen spinach slowly to the pot stirring through the pasta. Add all the cheeses a bit at a time, stirring through the pasta. Add 2 more tablespoons of butter constantly stirring the mixture. Add the Parmesan stirring throughout the pasta. Add salt & Pepper to taste.

~Go ahead and taste the lovely delight :)