About this Blog

Welcome! Thanks for checking out On Food Stamps.

I created this blog in 2009 when I began working at the Los Angeles Regional Foodbank. My work at this organization opened my eyes to food justice issues in America, and I had a strong desire to better understand the difficulties many people face when trying to access healthy food on a limited budget. So, I embarked on my own Food Stamp Challenge, living on $31/week as a vegan. I used this blog to chronicle my experience.

While my Food Stamp Challenge project has come to an end, you can see what I learned from it by reading the Greatest Hits posts linked to the right side of the page. Please excuse any out-of-date links, as I am no longer updating this blog on a regular basis.

Stay Hungry,

Julie

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Feeling like a goddess in the kitchen


Today, things are good. Finally.

I will be honest, it was a rough weekend. I got stranded several times without food and wound up incredibly hungry and grumpy. On Saturday, for example, I ate my oatmeal for breakfast and headed out to Ikea with a friend to try to start getting some stuff into my apartment without breaking the bank. It was the first time I'd bought anything new for my place (been shopping at Goodwill and Out of the Closet thrift stores so far) and I went in with a lot of energy. I didn't notice that I was getting hungry, that it was time to quit and go home, until it was too late. Three hours later my blood sugar had plummeted - just in time to load heavy, unwieldy flat-packed furniture into a small car. I hadn't brought any food with me, not even some almonds to tide me over. I also knew that I was low on groceries. When I got home there would be nothing waiting for me but rice, 1 onion, and a raw potato. Needless to say, I was not in a happy mood. My friend was also hungry but did not want to go eat if I was just going to sit there, starve, and not order anything. This was considerate of him, but it actually stressed me out because it made me feel guilty that my dietary restrictions were impacting him in a negative way. (Again, guilt about sticking to my diet is coming in to play.) It was a truly exhausting afternoon. I really felt like I wanted to quit this vegan thing and go buy a $10 salad somewhere on my way home. Couldn't afford it, of course, and I felt really low. That afternoon I could really understand how someone in that position might cave and grab something on the go that was within their budget. For me that would have been a $1 Quarter Pounder at Burger King. Great.

Lesson #6: If you are trying to eat well on a tight budget, getting stranded without food is suicide. Never leave home without some pre-peeled carrots, a piece of fruit, or some nuts to snack on.

The problem with this rule is that it requires planning. Honestly, it really sucks to have to plan out everything you eat. On Saturday morning I even knew I might run into trouble with food before I left. Frankly, I didn't feel like preparing a snack. Once again I was going to have to put time and effort into what I was going to eat, and I really wanted a break from all that. I chose to relax and not prepare, and I certainly paid for it. That was a tough afternoon.

Today is different.

I must tell you, after that trip to Super King on Sunday morning I have been really rockin' out in the kitchen. I've had more time to cook and have thus felt less tortured by my restrictive diet.

Do you see the picture at the top of this post? Those are my Persian cucumbers. On the suggestion a friend whose mom knows these cucumbers well, I peeled and sliced them and then drizzled on a bit of lemon juice and olive oil. I cracked some of my favorite Trader Joe's Lemon Pepper on top and had a fantastic simple salad. Had I not been following a vegan diet, I would have added some low-fat plain yogurt with the last of the mint I had from the Farmer's Market.

Having only a few dollars and a few ingredients to work with each night has forced (helped?) me to get more creative. The other night I looked in my fridge to see that tub of miso I'd invested in and half a bag of key limes. The key limes weren't going to last much longer, so I squeezed the rest of them and came up with this recipe:

Key Lime and Miso Veggies

Note: I used green beans, but this combination will work with any type of vegetable that is suited to steaming. I also tried this with Tofu last week and was very happy with the result. Don't be afraid to experiment!

Ingredients:

Key limes
Miso paste
a brown onion
olive oil
black pepper (optional)
a vegetable of your choice, or Tofu - I used green beans. This is the main ingredient of this dish.

Cut your key limes in half and squeeze their juice into a bowl. Strain out the seeds and set the juice aside.
Roughly chop the onion.
Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a saucepan. Before it gets overly hot, add 1 tsp of miso paste and stir it into the oil so that it begins to dissolve. Add a few tablespoons of water.
Once the miso is well dissolved (takes about 30 seconds) toss in the onions. Make sure the onion is well coated in the oil/water/miso mixture. Stir onions often to insure they do not overcook. Once they are nearly translucent (about 3 minutes), add your vegetable or tofu. Toss your main ingredient around in the pan, making sure it too is well coated in the miso/water/oil mix.
After about 2 minutes drizzle 1/3 of your key lime juice over the vegetables. Stir/toss to coat the vegetable with the citrus juice, and cover the pan with a lid for about 1 minute.
Continue adding key lime juice and a bit of water and covering the pan with the lid to steam the veggies. Every few minutes the covered vegetable will absorb the water and lime juice, so just keep checking, stirring, and adding more liquid.
When your vegetables are cooked to your liking, remove from the heat and enjoy.
I recommend not over cooking your veggies until they are limp (and devoid of nutrients). See how you like them al dente.

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