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« SNAPcut Challenge Day 2: New Jar Cuts Waste | Main | SNAPcut Challenge Day 1 - Good start and new thrifty discovery »

SNAPcut Challenge Day 2 - Speed it up and do without

I rely on a few key ingredients to bring rich taste to my budget cooking that are out of reach on the #SNAPcut Challenge. I can't spread the cost of the smallest packages across enough meals to make them affordable. For the duration I'm doing without tahini (no hummus!) and cashews (no cashew cream! no roasted cashews on top of curries!).

I'm also exhausted from working six-day weeks and getting started with this challenge of living on the current and coming food-stamp budget. On the other hand, I want variety on the table to boost our nutrition and our pleasure.

Speed it up: Quick and Crumbly Cornbread

My current cornbread recipe calls for making coconut milk from dried coconut and for making a flaxseed "egg" to hold the bread together. What if I just mixed the dried, shredded coconut and the finely ground flaxseed in with the other dry ingredients? This would save me time and mean that my Taster wouldn't have to wash the food processor.

Result: tasty cornbread that held up under careful treatment. The first piece crumbled quite a bit as I wedged it out of the cast-iron skillet, but the next piece came out intact. The cornbread firmed up as it cooled, too.

Do without: Babe's Split-Pea Soup

Don't you think it's odd that tahini comes only in one-pound jars or larger? A jar of organic tahini costs eight bucks and change, about 10% of my budget for the week! So instead of using tahini to provide the smoky, umami flavor to Babe's Split-Pea Soup from Wildy Affordable Organic, I used smoked paprika. Thanks to my friend Shelley for introducing me to this wonderful spice. It's a great substitute for chipotle pepper, too, when you want smoke but not fire. The resulting soup is a perfect bowl of fall comfort, without any added fat.

Do without: Chocolate Sweet-Potato Breakfast Cake

Even a small bottle of oil can be expensive and goes a long way. For this week, I'm using only olive oil. One of Fran Costigan's brilliant recipes in Vegan Chocolate  inspired me to use a light olive oil in place of coconut oil in my Chocolate Sweet-Potato Breakfast Cake from Fifty Weeks of Green. I can't taste the olive oil at all. I'm going to start making the cake like this all the time, because olive oil is less expensive and far healthier than coconut oil. (I'd look up the difference in saturated fats, but the UDSA's food database is down because of the government shutdown.)

I also mixed the batter by hand instead of using a stand mixer, based on the assumption that most people on food stamps don't have one. I used a fork to mash the sweet potato well before mixing it in. You can still see a few orange flecks in the cake, which is a bonus.

How do you speed it up or do without? Share your tips and challenges below.

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