Wednesday, January 2, 2013

SNAP Challenge - Menu and Recipes for Day One

                                                        Island  Chicken

From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...It was was a busy morning. I wanted to get a head start on some of the condiments I planned to use this week, so, the day began with kitchen duty that included making maple-flavored syrup and a boiled dressing that I would need later in the day. I also made corn muffins, and while I had bread on the brain, I used some of the bread I had purchased from a bakery outlet store to make croutons and bread crumbs for recipes that will be featured later in the week. Once cooled, the muffins were stored in the freezer. Bob and I are both grazers, so, it seemed judicious to practice a bit of out of sight, out of mind, in order to assure the muffins would be there when we needed them. Pancakes were on today's menu, so I pulled out an old, very basic recipe I used years ago and gave it second life for breakfast this morning. Lunch will be a dish of eggy cheese noodles to which vegetables are added and dinner will be a chicken dish that takes advantage of inexpensive ($1.99 a pound) boned chicken thighs. It is served over rice which I'll be cooking in quantity to use tonight and for another meal later in the week. Leftover noodles and chicken will become tomorrow's lunch and the egg whites not used in the boiled dressing will be saved and used to extend omelets made another day. Today's post contains recipes for the condiments and the dishes that appear on the menu below.

I'm making certain of the condiments we use, because their use is a murky area for folks participating in the SNAP challenge. Strictly speaking, a condiment is an ingredient used to improve the flavor of food, not one that can be eaten by itself. The challenge allows the use of condiments already on hand, but does not specify what they might be. Those of us who do a lot of cooking have pantries that bulge with such ingredients, so I let common sense dictate which could be used in the dishes I planned to make. The challenge also permits the use of those dried herbs and spices already in your spice rack. Other than that, all the food you eat must be purchased from your allotment. Food stamps are no fun.

Actually, food stamps is a misnomer. These days, SNAP is phasing out paper coupons and issues an EBT card that can be used like a debit card in most grocery stores. The card, however, can only be used for food or for plants and seeds that are used used to grow food. That rules out personal grooming items, cosmetics, pet food, paper products, cleaning products, or medicine, and, it goes without saying that, cigarettes, beer, wine or liquor cannot be purchased with the card. The card cannot be used for meals in stores or restaurants and the purchase of hot food items is also prohibited. When an EBT card is run through a point-of-sale terminal in a check out line, that terminal, connected to a computer that calculates what is owed, issues a receipt that shows the benefits remaining in the account after the transaction.

I also want to point out that, save for folks who participating in the challenge, SNAP is just one type of assistance provided for those in need. As a stand alone program, it does not provide the quantity of food needed to meet the nutritional requirements of many in the program. It is, however, a life saver. SNAP is the lynch pin in federal assistance programs that provide food for those who need help.

Now let's see what can be done on a SNAP allotment.

                                       Menu for New Year's Day


                                                         Orange Juice
                                                        *  Pancakes
                                       * Homemade Maple-Flavored Syrup


                              Small Chopped Salad with * Boiled Dressing  
                                      *  Noodles with Eggs and Cheese

                                                          Steamed Rice
                                                     *  Island  Chicken

                                                                   Island Chicken


1 (8-ounce) can pineapple chunks in pineapple juice
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon white vinegar (rice wine vinegar if possible)
2 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons crushed garlic
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 pound boneless skinless chicken thighs, cubed and lightly seasoned with salt and pepper
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 teaspoon cornstarch dissolved in 1 tablespoon water
2 cups cooked white or brown rice

1) Drain pineapple, reserving juice in a small bowl. Add soy sauce, vinegar, honey, garlic, ginger, red pepper flakes and mix well.
2) Heat a wok or large skillet. When pan is hot, add oil and heat until it shimmers. Add chicken and cook until chicken is no longer pink, about 3 minutes. Add bell pepper and pineapple and cook for 1 minute longer. Pour in pineapple-soy mixture and cook until sauce comes to a boil. Simmer for 3 minutes. Add cornstarch mixture and cook until sauce thickens. Serve hot with boiled or steamed rice. Yield: 4 servings.

                                                           Other Recipes for Day One


1 cup sifted all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1 egg
1 cup milk
3 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted


1) Place flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar in a medium bowl. Whisk to combine.
2) Combine egg, milk and butter in another bowl. Whisk until well combined.
3) Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and mix only until combined. Batter will be lumpy.
4) Heat a griddle. Use a scant 1/4 cup batter for each pancake. Cook until bubbles form on surface and edges began to look dry. Turn and cook 2 minutes longer. Serve with syrup. Yield: 8 pancakes.

Cook's Note: Batter may be refrigerated for up to 4 days.

Maple-Flavored Syrup


2 cups sugar
1 cup water
1 teaspoon maple extract


Combine water and sugar in a heavy-bottomed pan. Cook over medium-high heat and boil until sugar dissolves and liquid is clear. Remove from heat. Stir in maple extract. Serve warm if possible. Yield: 1-1/4 cups.

Cook's Note: This is a very sweet syrup. Be forewarned.

Cornmeal Muffins


1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow corn meal
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg,beaten
1/4 cup salad oil or melted shortening
1 cup milk


1) Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Grease 12 (2-1/2-inch) muffin pan cups.
2) Whisk flour with sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add cornmeal mixing and mix well. Set aside.
3) In medium bowl combine egg, salad oil and milk, mixing well. Add flour mixture stirring only until flour mixture is moistened.
4) Spoon into prepared muffin cups. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Loosen sides and turn onto a wire rack to complete cooling. Yield: 12 muffins.

Boiled Dressing


1 tablespoon flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1-1/4 cups milk
3 egg yolks, lightly beaten
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons butter

1) Combine flour, sugar and salt in a heavy saucepan. Gradually whisk in milk.
2) Place over medium heat and cook, stirring, until mixture starts to boil. Boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat.
3) Gradually stir the hot mixture into the egg yolks. Pour back into saucepan.
4) Add vinegar and mustard. Stirring constantly, bring mixture to a boil over medium heat. Boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat. Stir in butter. Cool to room temperature. Refrigerate. Yield: 1-1/2 cups.

Noodles with Eggs and Cheese

1/2 pound noodles
2 eggs
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup frozen peas and carrots, thawed
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
salt ( to taste)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons butter or margarine

1) Cook noodles in a large pot of lightly salted water until al dente.
2) While pasta cooks, place eggs, grated cheese, parsley, salt and pepper into a mixing bowl and beat with a whisk until well combined.
3) When noodles are almost cooked, melt butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat.
4) Quickly drain pasta and add it to skillet. Add peas and carrots and toss to combine. Heat through. Add egg mixture and toss until eggs and noodles become creamy and thick. Do not overcook.Serve immediately. Yield: 4 servings.

One Year Ago Today: Bacon and Onion Corn Muffins

Two Years Ago Today: Risotto with Salmon, Spinach and Peas

Three Years Ago Today: Brined Shrimp with Jalapenos and Garlic


Ginny Hartzler said...

It all looks really good. Not fancy, but good tasting and nutritional as well.

Sheherazahde said...

Thank you for educating your readers about this issue.
You are off to a good start. Those are recipes I can make with ingredients I have on hand. Your Island Chicken is very much like the Sweet and Sour Chicken that is in my usual rotation.
My mom used to make the homemade maple flavored syrup. We weren't on assistance she was just frugal.

Coleens Recipes said...

GREAT post, I can see that our menu's here at home are pretty similar to the SNAP menu's you are creating (that is alarming to me haha). I have a great homemade maple syrup recipe (uses white AND brown sugar) and we like it a lot. I look forward to more SNAP challenge recipes.

pam said...

I don't think people realize how expensive processed food is and how much more you can do if you make your own.

Unknown said...

You are amazing, Mary. I love that you are doing this challenge but love it even more that you made me already forget that you were on a very small budget!!

Claudia said...

I will admit to being exhausted reading through the cooking needs of the day. It is an eye-opener. All would be welcome at my table. Will be watching the SNAP challenge with great interest.

Sprigs of Rosemary said...

Most resourceful and creative. Tasty, too, I would bet on!

Kim said...

Of course making your own food is cheaper than bying the processed stuff!!!! Because your very good at cooking and baking, your having lots of ideas!!!! everything you made looks great, Mary! But you showed us how much people who are struggling with money have difficulties to feed themselves with lots of fruits and veggies just as you told yesterday!

Susan..... said...

Imagine adding a medical problem to that amount of work involved to make three meals daily with so little expense. Try eating no white food on your challenge and it changes everything. Now I am sure most will realize why the numbers are high that most people on assistance have Type 2 diabetes. It is almost impossible to make a varied, yet tasty diabetic diet stretch on the allotment given for a month and not something your average person would want to do. Makes you wonder, huh? All of a sudden prescription drugs (mostly covered by government assistance) or no drugs, become a cheaper way to deal with this disease than eating a whole foods diet, thus keeping the circle going.
I am not an expert on this but I know its a growing problem.
Thank you for taking this challenge, it already has opened my eyes just looking at your ingredient list.
Happy New Year to you, Mary.

Unknown said...


a very happy new year to you and family. Happy cooking and baking.

Tricia @ saving room for dessert said...

You are incredibly organized! The Island chicken looks delicious. Happy New Year Mary!

Unknown said...

You are so very organized Mary! I dream of being that way but it never seems to happen! This chicken recipe sounds wonderful, I love anything with an Asian twist and this one looks like a winner!

sississima said...

all delicious recipes, compliments, Happy New Year, bye SILVIA

Angie's Recipes said...

It looks homey and very flavourful. Right up my alley.

Inspired by eRecipeCards said...

Mary, an important and so said series... Will be following along the whole way


David said...

Mary, Your menu and recipes sound pretty good...inventive even. Part of the problem for people trying to survive on SNAP is that they may be working at minimum wage jobs at any and all times hours are available. Add a couple of little kids and just having the time to put together these meals may be more than many could cope with... Not to mention, creative cooking may not be a strength in the first place. Prepared items are just easier for many to deal with... I find it interesting just viewing what you can do on such a limited budget though... Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Susan Lindquist said...

Wow! Good job on Day 1! Everything looks tasty and I see plenty of protein ... and carbs, the bane of all these budget meals. I noticed your nutritionist follower mentioned the concern about veg and fruits ... but at least you have the brown rice and some veg to get the roughage element in there. This is such an education, Mary! Keep up the good work!

Melinda said...

Super job, everything look yummy!

M :)

Alessandra said...

Hi Mary, I just popped by to wish you, your family and all your readers a fantastic 2013!


Red Nomad OZ said...

An incredibly varied menu - but being on the program looks like hard work; and above-average organisational skills!!!

Sheherazahde said...

I used your recipe for Island Chicken to cook some pork this evening. It was very good. I don't like too much heat but I used your measurements and it was not too hot. Good recipe! Thank You!

Johanna said...

I've enjoyed reading your posts about the SNAP challenge - I'm planning to try it soon myself. Your recipes look awesome! I'm glad you raised the "condiment conundrum" as I've been trying to decide how I'll handle that. It seems no spices should be allowed since spices are cost prohibited for many on Food Stamps, and make such a huge difference in cooking.

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