Food Stamp Challenge Day 26: What Can Be Hard

| September 26, 2013 | 0 Comments

Yesterday was  a busy work day, and when I finished up at the end of the day, I found myself in front of the fridge with this deep sense of deja vu:  What can we eat that’s already made, or so easy I could make it (almost) with my eyes closed?  Most of us have probably found ourselves in that condition a zillion times, and the husband and I will sometimes (often) take the path of least resistance and go for a slice of pizza, or pull a Charlie Brown Thanksgiving and have toast, popcorn, and jellybeans.

Now, the issue here was one of personal responsibility: I hadn’t done enough cooking over the weekend last weekend, and so we weren’t flush with little containers of yummy stuff in the freezer as I’d envisioned, which could easily be grabbed, paired with a salad or a veggie, and off we go.

So it wasn’t the happiest Me that started chopping up vegetables for soup at 5:30pm after a long day at work. I got through it, and the results were delicious, but it wasn’t fun, and I do so prefer to have fun.   I vowed to do better from here on out so I won’t subject my husband and friends to Mrs. Grumpypants on days like that.

The key for me, since I doubt I’ll ever be 100% on keeping up with make-ahead meals, is to mix it up.  For example, this weekend I’m hoping for something like the following:

  • Throw together a crockpot of good chili with veggies, and freeze it up in both small and large containers (for lunches and dinners)
  • Make a batch of marinara sauce, and freeze it in containers that are the right size for boiling up some pasta, tossing with a little cheese, a quick little salad, and we’ve got dinner in fifteen minutes.
  • Soak some black beans, then toss them overnight in the crockpot to cook up with some onion, garlic, and cumin.  Freezing them in 2-cup batches provides an easy grab for things like black bean burritos with spicy cabbage slaw, a quick bean soup with cumin/chili/cilantro/lime, or even gallo pinto.
  • Stockpile some tortillas.  As the saying goes here, if we have tortillas, we have Food. We splurged and bought a package in our last shopping trip, and so it’s just a matter of setting some aside for dinner.
  • A loaf of good homemade bread in the bread machine, for pairing with a quick scramble, omelette or frittata for a fast dinner.

Altogether in terms of my “active time”  it may take an hour or two over the course of the weekend to throw all of that together.  And that way I won’t find myself shuffling around the kitchen whining next week  🙂

But here’s what I made last night, grumpy as I was, and for years it has been one of our absolute favorite things to have on hand. Adapted from a brilliant recipe on, it’s a creamy, spicy, vegetable-laden, high protein soup that has tofu, but you can’t tell it does — good for sneaking in both superhealthy colorful veggies and protein. In step 4, you can puree the whole soup if you want, but I like the red, green, and orange veggie chunks peeking out from the creamy goodness. Onions and sweet potatoes are not on the dirty dozen list, so I was able to use conventional versions of those.

Spicy Peanut Soup

2 T olive oil
2 large onions, diced
2 large organic bell peppers, 1 red and 1 green, diced OR a big bag of frozen organic mixed peppers
2 tsp chopped ginger
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
3 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
salt & pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper or hot sauce, or more to taste

2 cups crushed tomatoes in sauce (we use Muir Glen fire roasted, of course)
5 cups water or vegetable stock (you can make your own by saving up veggie scraps, simmering, and freezing the results)

3/4 cup peanut butter
1 box or 1/2 carton soft or silken tofu

2 cups cooked brown rice
1 cup sliced scallions, including the firm greens

1. Warm the oil in a wide soup pot set over high heat. Add the onions, peppers, ginger, and sweet potatoes, and saute, stirring frequently until the onions have begun to color, 8 to 10 minutes, adding the garlic after the first 5 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon salt, several good twists of the pepper mill, and the cayenne to taste, and cook a few minutes longer.

2. Add the tomatoes and scrape the pot to lift up any brown bits from the bottom. Add the water or stock, bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, covered, for 25 minutes.

3. Add the peanut butter and cook, stirring, until it has dissolved

4. Remove 2 cups of the soup and purée with the tofu in a blender until very smooth. Return this mixture to the soup pot and stir in. Taste for salt and for the heat level, adding more hot sauce if you’d like it spicier.

5. Serve with a scoop of rice mounded in each bowl and plenty of scallions scattered over the top.




Category: Cooking, Food, Food Stamp Challenge Recipes, Money Saving, Organic, Recipes, Whole Foods Challenge

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