Tag Archive | SNAP Challenge

SNAP Challenge Gourmet: Sneaky Blender Tomato Sauce

A recent report from the USDA makes a number of disconcerting observations about American’s relationship with vegetables. Some of their concerns, I don’t share. I see no problem with pairing heaping portions of dark green, leafy vegetables with generous amounts of fat and proper seasoning with good salt. The broad brush strokes however should be distressing to anyone. When we are talking about the average vegetable intake of the average American, we are talking about ketchup, salsa, nacho toppings, pizza toppings, pizza sauce, spaghetti sauce and lettuce and tomato on burgers. For most, the closest they are getting to a dark green vegetable is the pickle.

In order to help remedy that situation (in some small way) while meeting people where they are at, I offer a tomato sauce recipe that can be used on pizza or pasta. It was designed for the North Hartford Community Kitchen as has helped dozens of picky eaters increase their vegetable consumption without complaint or constraint. The recipe is dirt cheap, dirt simple and a dirty trick on those that don’t like squash, arugula, peas, carrots, green beans, lima beans, parsley or whatever else you want to inflict on them.

2 28 oz Can Tomatoes, crushed
10 Cloves Garlic, minced
1 Cup Mixed Frozen Vegetable (thawed)
2 Cup Frozen Butternut Squash (thawed)
1 Cup Arugula, rough chop
1 Cup Italian Parsley, rough chop
2 Cup Fresh Basil, rough chop
½ Cup Olive Oil
1 tsp Salt

1. In a pan heat the garlic in the olive oil for 3 minutes without browning.
2. Pour the garlic/oil mixture into a blender or food processor with the tomatoes.
3. Blend for a minute. Add the other ingredients one at a time, blending for 30 seconds each until mixture is smooth.

Downloadable pdf recipe card

Speaking of salsa y ketchup.

Bon Apetit!

SNAP Challenge Gourmet: Homemade Muesli

After yesterday’s post reacting to the increase in the cost and environmental benefits of oats, I thought I’d better share my ‘recipe’ for homemade muesli, along with a breakdown of prices.


Oats 1.5 lb .89/lb $1.33
Raisins .5 lb 3.59/lb $1.80
Sunflower Seeds .3 lb 3.99/lb $1.20
Bran Flakes .25 lb 1.75/lb $ .40
Corn Flakes .25 lb 1.75/lb $ .40
Wheat Germ .1 lb 2.49/lb $ .25
Flax Meal .1 lb 2.69/lb $ .27
Total 3 lb 1.88/lb $5.65

Date pieces were $2.79 but the bin was empty.

Just mix everything up in a big bowl and then put it in storage containers. Refrigerate or freeze the sunflower seeds, wheat germ and flax meal that you don’t use.

The bran and corn flakes are boxes of store brand cereal. The flax meal and wheat germ were from Bob’s Red Mill, found in the cooler section of the hippie/yuppy aisles. The rest is from the bulk bins. I’m really lucky to live two blocks from a none upscale grocery with bulk bins and a great hippie/yuppy section.

The good news is that the 20 cent per pound increase in oat prices at the pump only raised the price of muesli by 10 cents a pound. The bad news is that my Fred Meyer stopped carrying non-organic raisins in the bulk bin, so my raisin cost went up around a dollar a pound. (Bulk organic oats are $1.79)


Comparison shopping

Fred Meyer Muesli $.2.61
Bulk Bin Muesli $3.79 200%
Trader Joe’s Blueberry Muesli $3.79 200%

Fun additions for the 1%

Dried Cranberries $3.79 139%
Dried Currants $4.19
Granola $3.49
Almond Pieces $6.49
Pumpkin Seeds $5.79
Dried Blueberries $14.99

I don’t understand the high price for dried blueberries. Blueberries are expensive, because they are perishable and labor intensive to handle. Dried blueberries are neither. They are presumably from the part of the harvest that doesn’t make the grade to sell fresh. So the high price on the supply side is puzzling. And the flavor profile of dried fruit tends to converge on a similar tangy sweetness. So I don’t see how the product differentiates it’s self from currants or craisins enough to justify a $10/lb price premium. If somebody can explain that one to me, I’d love to understand the market for dried blueberries.

The SNAP Challenge Gourmet | Dented Can Chili

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The other day I was in the market, grocery shopping and as I was grabbing a half gallon of milk, I glanced in the dented and discarded bins. I often peek, but have never bought anything but soup vegetables. Instead of the usual completely useless crap, there was a pile of canned goods. I took a closer look. Chili. Black beans. Refried beans. Tomato puree. Hmmm. White beans. More chili. This is starting to look like a plan.

Here’s what I scooped up.

Nalley Big Chunk Chili (no beans) .99¢ (reg. $2.00)
Nalley Big Chunk Chili (no beans) .99¢ (reg. $2.00)
Hormel Beef Chili with Beans .69¢ (reg. $1.29)
Dennison’s Chili with Beans .89¢ ($1.83)
Rosarita Refried Beans .49¢ (reg. $1.00)
S&W White Beans .49¢ (reg. .89¢)
S&W Black Beans .49¢ (reg. .89¢)
Hunts Tomato Puree .69¢ (reg. $1.33)

For a grand total of $5.72 and a savings of $5.51.

How to bring this pile of salty swill up to some semblance of acceptable nutrition, wholesomeness and deliciousness without a lot of effort or spending?

I’ve got onions and fresh garlic at home, so first stop is a 28 oz. can of store brand diced tomatoes. $1. Then a big sweet potato. .69c. Next stop Trader Joe’s for a one pound bag of frozen red, yellow and green bell pepper strips. $1.69 (What can I say. My building has a walk score of 100).

Big pot. Chop and sauté two onions. While those are going, chop and add frozen peppers. After ten minutes, add a few cloves of chopped garlic for five minutes. Dump in all the cans. Add two tablespoons of New Mexico chili powder. I get the packets in the Mexican section, much cheaper. Peel and grate in the sweet potato. Heat through and simmer for an hour.

I also had some frozen corn that I thought about tossing in but didn’t. Sometimes I do. Sometimes I don’t.

Add in $1.00 for the ingredients for home and the grand total looks like:
$10.10 (the amount Obama is proposing for the minimum wage. Coincidence? You be the judge.) That worked out to about $1.44 a quart or 28 servings at .36¢ a serving. It took about 12 minutes to get in the pot. An hour and half on the stove with occasional stirring. Less than ten minutes to clean up and break the chili into plastic containers for freezing. Just over one minute per serving.

Let me emphasize that opening the cans was the hardest part.

So what was the verdict? My room mate cooks for a living. He’s no push over. Around lunch time the next day, the call came out from the kitchen, “What’s in this chili, it’s great.”

“You don’t want to know.”

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