From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...Well, Bob and I made it through the second day of the SNAP Challenge, though I came close to a major rule violation this morning. Without thinking, probably driven by the aroma of coffee that costs more than $4 a pound, I forgot the rules and grabbed a cup at a meeting I had to chair. Fortunately, I caught myself before I took a sip, and can report I'm still with the program that irrationally prohibits free food or drink that comes from sources outside the boundaries of the SNAP allotment. Two of the pillars of my meal plans for the week are milk and potatoes. I took advantage of both of them today to produce a filling, if unusual, main course for our dinner this evening. It was a thick potato soup, made with a quart of milk and extended with lots of vegetables and a small, very small, amount of ham and Parmesan cheese. It's really good and although it was developed for this challenge, I probably will make it again. It takes all of 30 minutes to move from the pot to the table and it is, quite simply said, delicious. For breakfast, I pulled another old-fashioned recipe from my files and made Bob, eggs en cocotte. Between you and me, my mother would have called these shirred eggs, but I thought the Frenchification would make them more appealing to him. It worked. The goal was to bake the eggs until the whites set but the yolks were still runny and could be sopped up with toasted bread strips. I really enjoyed the eggs and will definitely be making them again. Lunch was leftovers that reheated nicely. Bob finished the Island Chicken and I had some of the noodles left from yesterday's lunch. We are both still with the program.
I wanted to let you know a little about the folks for whom SNAP is a reality rather than a one-week challenge. A lot of people assume that the benefits we stuff into a category collectively called "welfare", go to folks who are not working. That simply is not true. The minimum wage in the United States averages about $7.25 an hour. A minimum wage worker who does not miss a single day of work in the course of a year makes about $15,000 for his efforts. That is enough to keep a family of two above the federally defined poverty level, but when that family size increases to 3 or 4 that income drops well below the poverty line. For 2012, the Federal poverty guideline is an annual income of $23,050 for a family of four. When a person has a full-time job but his income falls below the poverty line, they are what sociologists call the working poor.
It is interesting to know that 76% of SNAP households include a child, an elderly person or an individual who is disabled. They are considered to be vulnerable households and they receive 83% of all SNAP benefits. Most folks who are temporarily unemployed, move out of the system within 3 to 9 months and 40% of SNAP beneficiaries live in households that have earnings which are their primary source of income. Only 10% of participants receive cash welfare.
It is important to know that fraud within the SNAP system is extremely low. With the introduction of the EBT cards, most opportunities for fraud have been removed, and an electronic trail now exists to facilitate tracing abuses in the system. According to a recent USDA analysis, SNAP reached a payment accuracy of 96.19% in 2012. While there will always be room for improvement, the integrity of the SNAP program is currently functioning at the highest level it has ever seen.
I'll wager I've fed you enough numbers for the day and that you want to see the menu and recipes that we actually used to keep hunger at bay on this second day of the challenge. So, without further ado....
Menu for SNAP Challenge Day Two
* Eggs en Cocotte (Shirred Eggs)
Leftover Island Chicken and Rice
Small Chopped Salad with Boiled Dressing
* Creamy Potato Soup with Mixed Vegetables and Ham
Creamy Potato Soup with Mixed Vegetables and Ham...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite
3 tablespoons vegetable oil or margarine
2 cups chopped onions
3 cloves garlic, minced
6 (8-ounce) baking potatoes peeled and cubed
4 cups milk
1 cup chopped celery
2 cups frozen mixed peas and carrots, thawed
1 cup frozen corn, thawed
Optional: 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
4 ounces diced ham
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1) Heat oil in a 4 to 5-quart saucepan until it shimmers. Add onions and cook over moderate heat until limp and translucent, about10 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute longer. Add potatoes and cover with water. Bring mixture to a boil and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Drain potatoes and onion mixture, reserving liquid. Rinse saucepan.
2) Return potatoes to pan. Pour in 2 cups reserved potato water and 4 cups milk. Bring to a boil over moderate heat. Puree mixture using an immersion blender. Add celery, peas and carrot, corn, red pepper flakes, and thyme. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (I have found that 2 to 3 teaspoons of salt and a teaspoon of pepper are not excessive.) Bring back to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Add ham and Parmesan cheese and heat thru. Serve hot in large bowls. Yield 4 to 6 servings.
Eggs en Cocotte
2 teaspoons butter or margarine + more for preparing ramekins
4 teaspoons Parmesan cheese, divided use
4 large eggs
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons milk
1) Preheat toaster oven to 375 degrees F. Grease 2 (6-ounce) ramekins with butter or margarine. Place 1 teaspoon margarine and 1 teaspoon Parmesan cheese in bottom of each cup. Carefully crack two eggs into each ramekin. Season with salt and pepper. Top each ramekin with 1 teaspoon Parmesan cheese and 1 tablespoon milk. Place ramekins on toaster oven tray for ease in handling. Bake until whites are set, about 12 to 15 minutes for runny yolks, 15 to18 minutes for soft-cooked yolks or 20 minutes for hard-cooked yolks. Remove ramekins from oven and serve immediately. Yield: 2 servings.
One Year Ago Today: Pork Bourguignonne
Two Years Ago Today: Maple, Walnut and Fig Bread
Three Years Ago Today: Marinated Mushrooms