Day 1 of the SNAP Hunger Challenge

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

By Chef Terri

Day 1 started bright and early as I fumbled through my kitchen to make my PB&J. I skipped past my Skippy Natural peanut butter and jumped right in to the peanut butter I could afford this week, loaded with partially hydrogenated fat. The jelly was...of an upsetting consistency. While it's first ingredient was, in fact, strawberry, it was followed up with high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, and pectin. I have become much more accustomed to 100% fruit spreads, and stuff with high fructose corn syrup just moves differently. But, I measured out my portions, spread them on my bread and ate it gratefully because I knew I wouldn't have any food til much later in the morning if I didn't.

Off to work, where at every turn, there was food offered to me. Today, it wasn't too hard to turn it down, although when it came time for my midmorning snack, I certainly had a craving for something more substantial than baby carrots. However, it was exciting to taste how great, how crisp and fresh the carrots were because I was genuinely hungry. It also made me happy to think of the fact that I'd only spent 49 cents on the whole bag that might get me through most of the week.

Lunch was a bit of an adventure. I realize that I have options available to me in preparing my lunch that most people wouldn't, given that I work in a professional kitchen, but everything I did could have been done in advance and still tasted alright. I toasted my whole wheat bread and shredded my cheddar cheese, melting it on to one piece of toast. Then I sliced up my tomato (handy trick for tomatoes on sandwiches, always make sure to put the tomatoes on the bread AFTER a protective element like cheese or lettuce. If you put it right on the bread, it gets mushy) and added two fried eggs. A little bit of salt, and the sandwich was good to go! The significant problem was the fact that I had put my tortilla chips in the same ziploc bag as my bread. This meant that the moisture from the bread went in to my chips, making them chewy and soggy. My go to trick for reviving them was popping them in a 300 degree oven for about 10 minutes, restoring most of their crunchiness. Paired with salsa, it made a great meal.

Dinner was a new recipe adventure! I'm a big fan of big flavors, but without any spices to work with, I had to get pretty crazy inventive. It turned out alright, if not very attractive.

1 chicken breast, chopped in to bite sized pieces
1 t vegetable oil
1/2 C diced yellow onion
2 T diced tomatoes and their liquid
1 T peanut butter
1/2 t salt
Pinch of black pepper
1/2 t lime zest

Heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat with vegetable oil. Once heated, add diced onion and sautee for 2 minutes, until beginning to turn translucent. Add chicken and tomatoes, sautee for 3 minutes further. Spoon in peanut butter, salt, pepper, and lime zest, and stir to incorporate. If the sauce is too thick, add a tablespoon of water at a time until it reaches your desired consistency. If too thin, allow to cook for 1-2 more minutes until it thickens up. Serve immediately.

There was a LOT of flavor in this bowl, although if I had my way I would have added a bit of fresh parsley at the end and some lime juice to brighten the sauce, but it was awfully tasty. And being able to turn out in under 20 minutes after a day of work? Not too shabby if I do say so myself. I'll have to add nutritional facts of my days menu tomorrow (I forgot the tally at work), but it wasn't too bad. By drinking plenty of water, I was able to keep a lot of hunger pangs at bay. We'll see how tomorrow goes!