Delicious Lentil Stew-SNAP Recipe Project

SNAP fact in honor of Veteran’s Day: “Nationwide, in any given month, a total of 900,000 veterans nationwide lived in households that relied on SNAP to provide food for their families in 2011.”–Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

There were not too many choices in the “D’s” in SNAP Recipe Finder, but that wasn’t the reason my decision on which recipe I would choose was made quickly. The recipe I chose was “Delicious Lentil Stew” because the recipe was submitted by University of Wisconsin, Cooperative Extension Service…my home state! Delicious Lentil Stew recipe

I thought it might be interesting to see what some mid-westerners would do with lentils since lentils are often used in Indian, African and Mediterranean dishes, and sometimes those areas use herbs and spices that Wisconsin folks aren’t used to. Also, Wisconsinites don’t eat all that many legumes unless its in chili or baked beans, so we sometimes don’t know what to do with them, even though they are VERY affordable and have great fiber and protein content!

This label on lentil nutrition is from http://www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org/lentils. There are a few types of lentils, so the specifics can vary, but note the protein, fiber and even iron, folate and potassium content! (Those last two are something you won’t find on a typical food label, but are still important parts of your diet!)

Also, my bag of 1# lentils was bought at my local, no-frills Piggly Wiggly grocery store for only $1.29! And that’s protein for 8 servings…try to beat that price at the meat counter!

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It’s stew season, and this is a great way to add variety to your days of beef stew and chili!

So how did I feel about this recipe? To be honest, it was a little strange at first, but the final product was tasty, and it filled the role of what a SNAP recipe should be, nutritious, easy and affordable.

  • The recipe yielded aver 10 cups, which would work out to about 1 1/3 cups per serving.
  • The directions were pretty vague sometimes; I used med to melt the butter and turned the burner up to med-high to saute the onions. Also, it’s not the same sequence of how stews are often made, so I was curious about how it would turn out in the end. But really, the recipe is simple so it doesn’t need to be too detailed.
  • While whole carrots are more affordable, I had some baby carrots already, so I used about 4 of those for each whole carrot the recipe called for.
  • Flavor: this was the downfall of the recipe for me at first, which is typical for me. I used 4X the Worcestershire amount, and started adding oregano and garlic powder freely until I got a hint of the flavors. I also added salt and pepper to taste. But in the end, it was a flavor profile that would be familiar to people who might not be adventurous enough for a spicy or curry dish.
  • To add a but more flavor, but also sodium to a certain degree, you could use stock instead of water, but that would increase the price, of course.
  • The “stew” consistency was pretty thick, but you could of course add more water to make it soupier, if that’s what you like.
  • Lastly, I would use more carrot, celery and maybe more tomatoes, to give it more of a equal blend of ingredients. Now, it is lentils with a bit of other veggies sprinkled in.

This recipe is a great introduction to legumes for people who haven’t used them before and might not have the more elaborate spice rack needed for some of the other lentil recipes you often come across. Plus, lentils don’t need to be pre-soaked when purchased dry, and having them dry eliminates some of the sodium that can come with canned vegetables. Eat well!

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SNAP Recipe Project- Curried Potatoes

“SNAP protects kids from hunger:Overall, SNAP is credited with reducing the likelihood of being food insecure by roughly 30%.”–nokidhungry factsheet

For this week’s SNAP recipe, I chose Curried Potatoes. This was mainly because I was looking through the “C’s” in the SNAP Recipe Finder Database, but also because I had potatoes on hand. Last minute cooking is how most of us end up eating…especially if we walk in the kitchen time with no planned menu items!

This recipe is great for that; though its not something that you microwave in 5 minutes, the ingredient list is fairly basic, and has a pretty long shelf life, so you don’t need to shop for these ingredients with the commitment to make it in the next few days or else the ingredients will go bad. Therefore, it can be there for you when you need a warm, hearty vegetable side dish. Here is the site’s recipe, with a few of my notes added in red. (Click to enlarge)

Curried potatoes recipe

I was very curious to see how this recipe would turn out. I have made curry before, as well as stews and soups that contain potatoes, and I like the soft potato that results. But, if Chad and I are cooking potatoes for a brunch, I want them CRISPY! As you can guess from reading about the addition of the broth, the recipe resulted in the softer type of potatoes.

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Its pretty wet after you add the broth, but just cook it down until its the consistency you want.

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This was my endpoint.

Here are some more of my thoughts as Chad and I tried this affordable, tasty recipe:DSC01512

  • I would always at least double this recipe. Though its not exactly difficult, why not make extra for lunches or the next dinner and save yourself some work?
  • I used Russet potatoes, since that’s what I had, and they did turn out quite soft. If I made them again I’d boil them for less time to keep more of their structure. If you like a firmer potato, you could also use Yukon Gold, which keep their structure very well, even when slow-cooked in stews and soups.
  • I often get the “butter vs margarine” question, which could be a whole evening’s discussion for me and my fellow food geeks, but I feel either one would be fine here, as the butter isn’t so much for flavor, but a substrate to cook the onions. The rest of the flavors just bury the butter or margarine flavor–you could also use canola oil for a heart-healthy fat.
  • Curry isn’t one flavor, its a class of spice blends, and the variety is HUGE! There are sweet, red, green and Thai curry powders, to name just a few out of thousands! This is where most of your flavor will come from, so use a curry that has a flavor you like, and you’ll like these potatoes! (You also may need to play with amount you add, to get the intensity and richness you want.)
  • You could easily make this into a curry or stew-type dish: just add a variety of vegetables (I love cauliflower and chickpeas) and more broth to your liking.
  • When I think of curry, the meat I think of is chicken. You could prepare it separately or add it right to the dish.
  • And since its a SNAP recipe, it’s super-affordable at about 33 cents per serving!

This is a great base or starter recipe, and it pretty foolproof! After using it a couple times, I’m sure you will get a bit adventurous and start adding your own twists. And as it uses some different spices than some of us have grown up with (such as yours truly,) it opens the door to the wonderful, wide world of spices!

Eat well!

SNAP Recipe Project-Black Beans

What delicious dish will these ingredients make? Read on!

Check out the final picture to see the final product.

I tried a GREAT recipe this week, but first a bit of SNAP news:

Today, November 1, 2013, is a day of change for the SNAP program. If you have not heard, and judging by the amount of coverage this story has gotten, it wouldn’t be hard to miss, the SNAP program’s budget is being cut pretty severely. The cuts originally were passed in September, and to catch up you can read both a USA Today story and a NY Times story written when the bill was passed. Again, this is NOT a political website, so I encourage you to go to the news outlets of your choice to see what they report on this. However, for my part, I want to see people in America NOT go hungry, and the cuts to SNAP will take food money away from families. Here are a few things to consider:

  • The past SNAP benefits worked out to an average of $1.50 per meal. Could you do it? There have been a few public servants who have taken on this challenge to see how it affects them and what they could get for the money. For example, Sen. Chris Murphy took the challenge, and you can read about his experiences, and other SNAP information, at  http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2013/05/20/2038121/senator-undertakes-3-per-day-food-stamp-challenge-as-congress-readies-cuts/
  • The cuts, starting today, would decrease the already small amount by approximately $36 per month per family.
  • 47 million people in this country participate in SNAP, which means they qualify as low income.
  • 72% of families in SNAP have children and more than 25% include seniors or people with disabilities.

DSC01503There is a bill, however, that could extend the SNAP benefits. The progress, if any, of HR 3108 can be found at https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/113/hr3108#overview.

Now, back to food! I chose the “Black Bean” recipe from the SNAP Recipe Finder site for this week’s recipe testing and review. This is what it looks like:

A couple things to note about this great recipe:

  • It is dirt cheap! $2.00 for the whole thing and only 50 cents per serving! WOW!
  • While a serving, which worked out to be a mounded 1/2 cup, is 150 calories, it has 8 grams each of fiber and protein…this will definitely stick to your ribs and keep you full for a while!

Here are my notes and thoughts:

  • When preparing this recipe, I followed my usual rule of adding twice the seasonings: whole onion, 4 cloves of garlic, 1/2 t of oregano. Also because I LOVE the spice, I used over 1 T of cumin. I also added a bit more salt than what was called for, but not twice the amount.
  • I used a meal mallet to mash the beans…in my experience a potato masher just lets the slide out from under it and it makes for more work.

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    Step one is kinda messy, but kinda fun, too!

  • It was delicious! I used a double portion and ate it with some light sour cream,homemade baked tortilla chips, avocado and salsa. It filled me up (a full cup was almost too much for an entree!,) and it was a great Tex Mex meal…without all the grease, lard, cheese and salt that some restaurant provide.
  • This dish was flavorful, but not spicy! You could add heat by sauteing some hot peppers of your choice with the onion.
  • I can tolerate A LOT of salt (I sometimes crave it, actually) but if I made it again, I would go with the called-for amount of salt, or taste it before adding any extra.
    • One thing to note is that if this recipe has a drawback, its the sodium content. Because you use the liquid from one of the cans, you are getting more sodium than if you would rinse the beans.
    • If you are watching your sodium, you could rinse both cans of beans (which removes up to 40% of the sodium and then use water or a low sodium broth to give you the consistency you want.
    • There are more low and no-sodium added options available every day, so look for those, too
  • HOW TO EAT THIS DISH:
    • This is originally designed as a side dish, and what a great one it would be! It’s easy to make, affordable and packed with nutrition!
    • This is a great replacement or substitution for refried beans, which often aren’t that high on flavor, have a pretty boring texture and can be made with lard, REALLY upping the fat content!
    • The way I used it was almost as a dip, which it could easily be. To make it more dip-ish, you could always chop the onions finer, mash the beans more,and perhaps add some water or stock if you wanted it thinner.
    • This could be a component of any taco, enchilada or burrito dish, either with meat or without. Keeping it meat-free would save money and keep the unhealthy fats down, but it would be tasty either way.
    • Use leftovers with scrambled or fried eggs and/or roasted potatoes in the morning for a hearty, healthy breakfast.
    • Add rice to it for a classic black beans and rice dish.
    • I choose the accompaniments I did since I had them on hand, but anything you would put in, on, or alongside tacos would work: Cheese, onion, green onion, tomatoes, lettuce, sour cream, salsa, etc.

    Hmm…now to start checking out the “C’s”

    • Final product. Tasty!

      Final product. Tasty!