Hunger Challenge Day One – and Craig’s first ever solely meatless day

Day one and all is well. Our bellies are full, and we’ve eaten healthy today. It’s probably the first day in Craig’s entire life that he has gone 100% without meat, and he survived. Perhaps Meatless Mondays may become an occasional reality as a result of our experiment.
Breakfast was similar to what Craig eats every day, but with one big exception. While grocery shopping, we cut English muffins from our list. One package of six muffins costs twice what a loaf of 100% whole wheat bread (16 slices of bread, enough for eight servings of toast) costs. Spread two tablespoons of peanut butter on the toast, a serving size that is actually quite generous, a banana, and coffee, and you’re off to a great start to the day. I can live without wine, but I couldn’t work with a caffeine headache, so we agreed we HAD to budget coffee into our total. We didn’t finish the pot, and it seemed like SUCH a treat – and pick me up – iced this afternoon.

LESSON:  if you prefer one food over another, too bad. You eat what’s cheapest.

LESSON: “Real” plates, glassware, and flatware make food taste better as I experienced drinking my iced coffee in a glass (versus the old, plastic Kreiger cup I had been drinking water from up until then today). This is one of the reasons Food Outreach’s Monday hot lunch program is so vital. It allows clients to experience a three-course, restaurant-style meal. The kind of thing most of us take for granted, but not folks living on SNAP.
Lunch was really tasty and very filling, but frankly repetitious, due to a few errors on my part. Because I forgot to soak and cook the dried black beans, I couldn’t make chili yesterday, and I ended up making lentil-sweet potato soup for Monday’s lunch. The problem is I made this last week, and we finished the leftovers for Saturday lunch. This means we’ll have eaten the same thing four out of the last five days if I don’t make chili tonight for lunch tomorrow, in addition to what we’re having for dinner (vegetarian broccoli and rice casserole). And there was another problem. I forgot to cook rice that we were going to eat with the soup, and we ended up eating plain soup. While it was reheating, Craig mused that most days he snacks while we’re getting lunch ready, and we almost always have cheese and crackers with a glass of wine while we make dinner. Not today because we have nothing easy to snack on (we did get real popcorn but that takes too much time to pop for quick snacking). I missed my after lunch, fun size Peppermint Patty, something I consider a not-too-bad-indulgence – dark chocolate and low fat/calories, right?

LESSONS:  eating cheap requires planning and time, things someone battling HIV/AIDS or cancer has in short supply. And snacking and simple indulgences are never considerations. Typically I would never think of spices (such as a good curry powder that is excellent in this super simple soup) a luxury, but they are on a budget.

Lentil- Sweet Potato Soup
4 generous servings

1 1/3 C lentils (I used red because that’s what I had)
1 pound sweet potatoes, scrubbed and diced (I left the skins on because they came in last week’s CSA box, and being freshly harvested they have a very thin skin)
1/2 C diced onion
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 stalks celery, sliced
2 large carrots, sliced
4 C chicken broth
2 C water
1 T olive oil*
1 t salt*
2 t freshly ground black pepper*
2 – 3 large handfuls of spinach

Sauté onions and garlic in oil until soft. Add all other ingredients except for the spinach. Bring to a boil and simmer for 45 minutes or until vegetables are soft. (This can be made ahead, refrigerated, and reheated at this pont.) Add the spinach, and cook until it wilts. Serve piping hot.

If you using red lentils, they will disintegrate with this long cooking time and lend a very creamy texture to the soup. Spices such as curry powder, thyme, or basil add wonderful flavor to the soup.

* We are counting salt, pepper, and olive oil as “free” on our challenge. To make up for the absence of any other spices in this soup, I used a LOT of black pepper.

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