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SNAP Challenge 2014: Day 4 ( + vegetarian lasagna rolls)

SNAP Challenge Day 4 | doughseedough.net

We’re over halfway through the Challenge, folks. Honestly? Today was the best I’ve felt so far. Maybe it was because I got to see Mike. Maybe it’s because I realized that we probably have enough food for the week. Either way, I’m going to go to bed happy and a little less worried tonight.

Today I ate:
Breakfast: oatmeal with egg
Lunch: vegetarian lasagna rolls
Snack: tortilla chips
Dinner: chicken taco soup
Snack: peanut butter toast, raisins

Today Mike ate:
Breakfast: oatmeal with raisins
Lunch: vegetarian lasagna rolls
Snack: peanut butter toast
Dinner: chicken taco soup
Snack: peanut butter toast

The recipe I’m sharing with you today is for spinach tofu lasagna rolls. Yes, tofu. Keep reading. Mike had the lasagna rolls during Day 3 of the Challenge. I asked him what he thought of the tofu and he just stared blankly at me… “what tofu?”

Apparently he thought it was just (really bad) ricotta! Well, surprise – there is no ricotta in this, either! I subbed in low fat cottage cheese (easier on the wallet and on the waistline) and mixed in plenty of good-for-you spinach.

{vegetarian} Spinach Tofu Lasagna Rolls | doughseedough.net

Spinach Tofu Lasagna Rolls

1 pound package lasagna noodles
1 teaspoon olive oil
5 cloves garlic, minced
19 ounces firm tofu, crumbled
3 cups chopped spinach
1 cup low-fat cottage cheese
2/3 cup shredded Parmesan cheese, divided
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 1/2 cups marinara sauce, divided

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Cook noodles according to package directions. Drain, and set aside on a large baking sheet to dry out slightly.
  3. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large nonstick pan over medium heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring frequently, for 30 seconds. Add tofu and spinach and cook, stirring, until spinach wilts, about 2 – 3  minutes. Remove pan from heat and let cool for 5 minutes. Stir in cottage cheese, 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper.
  4. Spread 1 cup sauce in the bottom of a large baking dish. To make the lasagna rolls, place about 1/4 cup mixture on a noodle and spread across the entire noodle. Roll up and place the roll, seam-side down, in the prepared baking dish. Repeat with the remaining noodles and filling.
  5. Spoon remaining sauce over top of the lasagna rolls and sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan cheese. Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes or until heated through and cheese is melted.
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SNAP Challenge 2014: Day 3

Today I’d like to share with you an app that I’m in love with. It’s called Charity Miles. The concept is simple:

You choose a charity.

Charity Miles | doughseedough.net

You run.

Charity Miles | doughseedough.net

Your miles translate into something for the charity of your choice.

Charity Miles | doughseedough.net

 

If you’re a runner/biker/walker and have a smart phone, download this app now! Ever since I started using Charity Miles, I’ve chosen Feeding America as my charity. I thought I would share the app with you all since it’s Hunger Action Month and all.

Now on to Day 3 of the SNAP Challenge! It was a strange day. I forgot to eat a “real” breakfast. I had a couple bites of cottage cheese at 5:30 before I left for work, but never got my oatmeal. I didn’t realize until after 10. It was so close to lunch that I just ate a snack to tide me over. Here’s what I ended up eating:

Breakfast: bites of cottage cheese
Snack: banana with peanut butter
Lunch: peanut noodles with chicken and veggies
Snack: raisins
Snack: apple, whole wheat bread
Dinner: spinach tofu lasagna rolls
Snack: tortilla chips
To drink: peppermint tea, water with lemon

Here’s what Mike had:
Breakfast: yogurt
Lunch: spinach tofu lasagna rolls
Dinner: spinach tofu lasagna rolls
Snack: peanut butter toast
Snack: tortilla chips
To drink: peppermint tea, water with lemon

So far, the thing I find myself missing the most is carbonated water. I drink so much of the stuff. Mike and I actually bought a SodaStream a few months ago because I was going through a frightening amount of 12 packs. It was seriously one of the best purchases we’ve made recently.

 

 


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SNAP Challenge 2014: Day 2 (+ a recipe!)

SNAP Challenge Day 2 | doughseedough.net

 

Day two is done. For me, it was just as weird as the first day. I wasn’t feeling 100% like myself due to the obnoxious cold I get hit with. Here’s what I ended up eating:

 

Breakfast: oatmeal with raisins
Lunch: peanut noodles with shredded chicken and veggies
Snack: cottage cheese
Dinner: peanut noodles with shredded chicken and veggies
Snack: apple
To drink: crazy amounts of peppermint tea sweetened with a bit of agave, water with lemon

 

So let’s move on to what I’ve been eating the past few days: peanut butter noodles with chicken and veggies!

 

This dish was crazy easy and it’s super customizable. I used bell pepper and carrots as my veg in this dish, but just about anything you have on hand will work. Feel free add more soy sauce, if desired. I only used 2 teaspoons because I ran out and didn’t budget for it in my SNAP Challenge budget. The most time-consuming part was cutting all the dang carrots up. I didn’t have my mandoline or grater  with me, but I highly suggest you use one to make prep a little easier. Alternately, just chop the carrots up. A little less pretty, but just as tasty.

 

Another bonus? The noodles taste stellar hot or cold. I opted to eat mine mostly hot since it made my throat feel better, but you just follow your heart (stomach? taste buds?) and do as you wish!

 

Peanut Noodles with Chicken and Veggies | doughseedough.net

Peanut Noodles with Shredded Chicken and Vegetables

1 – 13.25 ounce package of whole grain spaghetti
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 bell peppers, thinly sliced
3 carrots, julienned
2/3 cup natural creamy peanut butter
2 teaspoons low sodium soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons sriracha, more or less to taste
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons minced ginger
1/2 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
  1. Place chicken in a large saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook until no longer pink in the middle and internal temperature reaches 165°F, about 12 minutes. Remove to a cutting board and let cool. Once cool enough to handle, shred with two forks.
  2. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain pasta, reserving 2/3 cup of the pasta water. Set aside.
  3. While pasta is cooking, whisk together peanut butter, soy sauce, sesame oil, sriracha, garlic, and ginger. Whisk in 2/3 cup of hot pasta water to thin sauce. Taste, and add more soy sauce and sriracha if desired.
  4. Toss pasta, bell peppers, and carrots with peanut sauce. Garnish with cilantro and serve.

 


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SNAP Challenge 2014: Day 1

SNAP Challenge Day 1 | doughseedough.net

The week is off to a rough start for me. I spent the weekend feeling a little off, but I attributed it to my allergies acting up. I woke up Monday feeling like I had been hit by a truck. All I wanted to do was drink tea, eat soup, and stay in bed all day. Instead, I dragged myself to work and ate the food I had already purchased.

I ended up caving and went to the store after work to get some of my favorite peppermint tea: Full Circle + Project 7’s organic peppermint tea. This tea has been on my staples list ever since I discovered it about a year ago. Not only is it fairly cheap ($2.59 for a box!), it also donates a portion of the proceeds to fight hunger. Their website states that every two boxes purchased equals a meal for someone in need. How fitting for Hunger Action Month :)

Unfortunately, the purchase of this tea means I only have a measly $0.06 left in my budget. The $2.65 I had left over was my buffer just in case we ran out of food – $2.65 meant I could buy another pack of pasta and some sauce if we needed something for our last couple meals. I have my fingers crossed that I have enough food for us.

Today, I ate:
Breakfast: oatmeal with raisins
Lunch: peanut noodles with chicken and veggies
Snack: banana with peanut butter
Dinner: cottage cheese with pepper
Drank: water with lemon, water, peppermint tea

As far as I know, Mike ate:
Breakfast: yogurt
Lunch: peanut noodles with chicken and veggies
Dinner: peanut noodles with chicken and veggies
Drank: water with lemon

I didn’t really feel hungry at all today. I ate mostly out of habit. Dinner didn’t sound good to me at all, so I opted to just eat a small bit of cottage cheese. Stay tuned tomorrow for my Day 2 summary and the recipe for the peanut noodles!


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SNAP Challenge 2014: Menu Planning & Grocery Shopping

In honor of Hunger Action Month, I am once again taking on the SNAP Challenge from September 15 – 21. With cuts to the SNAP funding last November, we were left with even less to work with this year. The goal was to work with $4.25 per person for each day, giving us $59.50 to work with. This is $3.50 less than what we had last year when we completed the Challenge. It doesn’t seem like much, but $3.50 could have gotten us quite a bit more food.

The $59.50 must cover everything we eat or drink in the next week – this means no going out; no free food from family, friends, or coworkers; and no running to the store mid-afternoon for a snack. Any food that you currently have in the house is out-of-bounds, with the exception of spices and condiments.

SNAP Challenge Prep | doughseedough.net

Planning for this year’s SNAP Challenge was way more stressful that last year. On top of a more limited budget, I had to figure out how to feed both of us while we’re living in two cities, meaning I had to come up with meals that I could prep ahead of time and leave behind for Mike. I’ve also become a lot less aware of how much I was spending on groceries these past few months and I’ve fallen out of the habit of menu planning. I did my best and ended with the following menu plan:

Dinner:
Spinach & tofu lasagna rolls
Chicken taco soup
Peanut butter noodles with chicken and veggies
Pasta with zucchini in a lemon-yogurt sauce

All lunches, as usual, would be dinner leftovers. Some dinners would be leftovers as well. This plan follows pretty closely what I do on a weekly basis – make a few dinners that we eat for several meals.

Breakfast:
Oatmeal with raisins
Greek yogurt with agave
Regular fruit yogurt
Peanut butter toast

Snacks:
Celery/carrots with peanut butter
Apples
Toast with peanut butter

Groceries for SNAP Challenge 2014 | doughseedough.net

We did most of our shopping at Aldi, as I’ve found that it’s the most economical option out there. I ended up getting two things from the Asian grocery store near our house, since Aldi doesn’t carry ginger or tofu. Here’s the breakdown of what we bought:

Produce:

  • Cilantro: 0.69
  • Onions: 1.79
  • Celery: 0.49
  • Avocados (2): 0.49 each
  • 3 pack of garlic: 0.79
  • Baby spinach: 1.79
  • Granny smith apples: 3.29
  • Lemons: 2.29
  • Bananas: 1.20
  • Carrots: 0.99
  • Ginger: free (from the Asian grocery store -this always happens when I get the 1″ nubs of ginger)
  • Corn (3): 1.00 (from farmers’ market)

Dairy:

  • Extra sharp cheddar: 1.99
  • Individual yogurt cups (4): 0.39 each
  • Parmesan: 1.99
  • Low fat cottage cheese: 2.29
  • Plain nonfat Greek yogurt tub: 3.89

Protein:

  • Eggs: 1.15
  • Chicken breasts: 5.99
  • Firm tofu: 1.79 (from Asian grocery store)

Canned/dried:

  • Natural creamy peanut butter: 1.49
  • Diced tomatoes (2): 0.59 each
  • Black beans (2): 0.59 each
  • Tomato sauce: 0.25
  • Tortilla chips: 1.69
  • Spaghetti sauce: 0.99
  • Agave: 2.49
  • Old fashioned oats: 2.29
  • Whole grain spaghetti (2): 0.89 each
  • Lasagna noodles: 1.49
  • Lemon juice: 1.89
  • Raisins: 2.89
  • Whole wheat bread: 1.29

Total: $56.85 ($2.65 left)

What we picked from the garden: the few tomatoes we had left, two small bell peppers, hot peppers, and zucchini.

I think I did OK, but I won’t really be able to tell until the week is over. I will admit that I had a minor meltdown while we were shopping because I realized that I hadn’t planned for enough meals. I had to figure out another meal last-minute and hack off a bunch of “extras” we had on our list like coffee (Mike willingly gave this up!), almonds, peanuts, and more fruit and vegetables.

 


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Hunger Action Month

This year, I share my birthday with Hunger Action Day, the kick-off to Hunger Action Month. Just like last year, the kick-off starts with Turn Orange for Hunger Relief. So, today I’m donning orange (okay, orangish-pink – I don’t own anything that’s orange), bringing in orange-themed birthday treats, and spending my afternoon volunteering at a food bank.

As customary, I brought in birthday treats to share with the team – pumpkin cookies, baby carrots, orange bell peppers, and cheese crackers and sent an email out to the team announcing that I had brought in orange treats for my birthday (in support of Hunger Action Month) and asked them all to join me in participating in this year’s SNAP Challenge.

I participated in the SNAP Challenge last year and I’m set to do it again this year from September 15 – 21, 2014. For those of you who missed it, you can catch my blog posts about it here. The Challenge last year was to live off of $4.50 a day. Since last year, SNAP benefits have been cut by about 5.5%. So, this year’s challenge is even harder – live off of $4.25 a day.

The $4.25 includes everything you eat or drink. This means morning runs to your favorite coffee shop are out of the question. In fact, it might mean that coffee is out of the question. I don’t drink it, but last year Mike had to give it up for the week so we could stick to our budget. A reduction of $0.25 might seem insignificant, but losing that money means something will probably have to drop off my grocery list.

Eating on a limited budget for one week in no way encompasses the struggles that low-income families face on a daily basis, but it gives you a glimpse into what life can be like for millions of low-income families. Participating in the Challenge and sharing your experiences will help raise awareness. I ask you to try living on $1.50 a meal for a week (or even for a day!) to  gain a better understanding of what low-income families face on a week-to-week and month-to-month basis.

If you aren’t up to take the SNAP Challenge, I ask that you take one night this month to go and volunteer at a local food bank. Or donate some food or money. Every little bit helps.


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Char Siu Bao (Chinese BBQ Pork Buns)

I think making these buns might have been the biggest mistake of my life. They’re just too dang good and I crave them constantly. The first batch quickly dwindled to nothing – I sent a bun or two off to my family and to Mike’s parents and sent a half-dozen off with Mike. I was left staring at four buns. I tried to make them last as long as possible, but I have to be honest… they lasted four days. Maybe less.

Baked Char Siu Bao (Chinese BBQ Pork Buns) | doughseedough.net

I think these buns might be the first thing I will ever put on my monthly “must make” list. I rarely make repeat dishes. It takes a good dish to warrant a second visit into my kitchen more than once a year. It takes a stellar dish to make a visit a few times a year. A dish that I want to make every month? Unheard of, until now.

Baked Char Siu Bao (Chinese BBQ Pork Buns) | doughseedough.net

I just can’t explain why I loved these buns so much. It’s a combination of the slightly sweet, mostly salty filling surrounded by an impossibly soft, fluffy, yet chewy bun. The texture of the buns is partially due to the tangzhong (roux) made from combining flour with water and milk. The tangzhong  is incorporated into the dough and the endresult is a bun that’s… well, good.

Baked Char Siu Bao (Chinese BBQ Pork Buns) | doughseedough.net

I made this dish for this month’s What’s Baking. The host for August is Ali from Sparks from the Kitchen. She challenged us to bake up something to represent our heritage.  I waffled between making dan ta, an egg custard tart, and feng li su, little flaky cakes encasing a pineapple filling. I don’t know how I ended up making neither of those and instead making the char siu bao, but I don’t regret my actions one bit. I loved char siu bao growing up, and I love them still. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

Char Siu Bao (Chinese BBQ Pork Buns)

for the buns:
6 cups bread flour, divided
2/3 cup water
1 1/3 cup milk, divided
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons instant yeast
2 large eggs
4 tablespoons butter, melted

for the filling:
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 cup finely chopped shallots
2 tablespoons honey
1 1/2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
1/4 cup low-sodium chicken stock
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups diced char siu (Chinese BBQ roast pork)

for garnishing:
1 egg beat with 1 teaspoon water (egg wash)
1 tablespoon sesame seeds

  1. To make the tangzhong (roux/flour paste), mix together 1/3 cup flour, 2/3 cup water, and 1/3 cup milk in a small saucepan until well combined. Place the pan over medium heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens up and has the consistency of a thick yogurt. The temperature of the roux should not exceed 150°F. Remove the mixture from heat and set aside to cool.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine 5 cups flour, sugar, salt, and yeast and mix with a wooden spoon to combine. Add the tangzhong/flour paste, 1 cup milk, 2 eggs, and melted butter. Stir together to form a soft dough. Knead by hand for 15 – 20 minutes. If your dough is sticky and not coming together, add the remaining 2/3 cup flour a little at a time until your dough is smooth and elastic.
  3. Lightly grease a large bowl. Place dough inside and turn to coat. Cover the bowl lightly with plastic wrap. Place the bowl in a warm, draft-free place and let rise for 60 minutes or until it has doubled in size.
  4. Meanwhile, get started on the filling. Heat the oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Stir in the honey, soy sauce, oyster sauce, sesame oil, and dark soy sauce. Cook until mixture starts to bubble, stirring frequently. Stir in the chicken stock and flour until well combined. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 2 – 3 minutes, or until thickened. Remove from heat and stir in the diced roast pork. Set aside to cool.
  5. Separate the risen dough into 16 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a 4-inch circle, leaving the center slightly thicker than the edges. Place a heaping tablespoon of filling into the middle of each circle. Crimp them closed, making sure they are tightly sealed. Don’t fret if they’re a little ugly – the crimped side ends up on the bottom, hidden from judging eyes ;)
  6. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Lay the buns seam-side down on the prepared baking sheets and let rise for another hour.
  7. Preheat oven to 350°F. Brush the tops of the buns with the egg wash. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes, or until buns are golden brown. Let cool slightly before eating.

 

yields 16 buns. recipe slightly adapted from The Woks of Life

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