Total food stamp funds remaining:$12.67
You may have been wondering about our breakfasts…
Before we eat anything substantial, we usually opt for caffeine and a few hours spent brainstorming and writing. (We’ve both resided in countries like Portugal and Italy, where breakfast may be only a beverage.) We buy good arabica (both whole beans and ground, in bargain quantities) and often add powdered cinnamon to the ground coffee.
A very ordinary Braun clone of Mr. Coffee brews our morning draught. We microwave 1% milk in our cups and pour strong coffee into the heated milk. Two cups each, and we are usually fine until about 11 a.m…when a desire for something we can chew begins to preoccupy us. Coffee finished, we can now do lunch:
Around the Mediterranean, melon and cheese are often paired. Nowhere is the combination more refreshing than in Turkey, where one of us has lived. Today’s mid-day meal needed only some warmed whole wheat pita bread and snippets of fresh spearmint to enhance the half cantaloupe and 4 oz. chunk of feta* cheese we shared.
* Feta is the Greek name for a soft, crumbly white cheese that may be made from cow’s and/or sheep’s milk. Popular throughout the Balkans and Middle East, it’s long been made throughout those regions. Now there are internationally marketed brands coming from Denmark, France, Britain, Canada, and the US, as well as the traditional producers like Greece and Turkey. Our favorite is Bulgarian, but in Sarasota, we’re happiest with the tangy American Président label ($2.99 lb. at BJ’s).
Cantaloupe $0.88 (and we’ve used only half)
Feta Cheese $0.75 for 4 oz. ($2.99 lb at Richard’s Whole Foods and BJ’s)
Total food stamp funds remaining: $12.67 – 1.63 = $11.04
Food Stamp Challenge aside, we rarely buy any bottled or canned soft drinks. But we do drink cold tea throughout the day. We vary our additives according to what we have around, but here’s our basic recipe.
Chilled, Spiced Tea (makes about 2 quarts)
3 Heaping tsp. loose black tea or 4 teabags
(we buy whatever black tea or “orange Pekoe” is on sale, usually 100 bags for @ $2)
2-3 Nickel-sized pieces of fresh ginger root
1/4 Teaspoon ground cinnamon (2-3 shakes from a jar with a perforated top)
2-3 Wedges of lime, lemon, orange or even leftover citrus rind (ok if you’ve already squeezed out the juice for something else)
Place the tea and other ingredients in a large teapot. Bring 1 quart of water to a boil and pour it into the teapot. Stir pot to settle the tea. Let stand 4-5 minutes. Meanwhile, bring one more quart of water to a boil.
Strain brewed tea (it will be very strong) into a 2-quart, heat-resistant vessel that will fit in your refrigerator. Refrigerate this half-full vessel.
Leave all the ingredients in the teapot and refill it from the boiling kettle. Let this weaker tea sit until it has cooled slightly. Strain and add to the first batch. We usually reserve the ginger slices (which are still very flavorful) and put them into the cold tea vessel. Sweeten, if you must, but the aromatics may just pacify your sweet-tooth. Chill and enjoy with or without ice.
We wanted our last meal to be special. The weather deities of south Florida had other ideas, but in the end, they relented enough to allow us to grill a steak. On our last foray to Sweetbay supermarket, we found beef chuck shoulder steak on sale at $1.49 per pound. While this cut of beef is not as inherently tender as New York strip or rib eye, it’s well marbled and flavorful, and much less costly: just the sort of cut that benefits from a long marinade. The boneless piece we brought home was destined for tagliata, an Italian steak salad.
Tagliata means ‘cut,’ in reference to the method of serving this salad. Ordinarily, a steak is marinated, grilled, then sliced diagonally into strips, tossed with greens, and dressed with olive oil and lemon juice. The traditional leafy component for tagliata is arugula, a green that does not grow well in hot weather. We decided against a short drive to Whole Foods, where arugula is nearly always available (about $2. 50 a bunch). That would have pushed our budget limits. Furthermore, we have been trying to consume as much Florida-grown produce as possible, for this experiment and in ‘real life.’ To quote Cole Porter again, “It’s too darn hot.” Arugula and other bitter greens are surely growing in shade-houses somewhere right now, but under the July skies of Sarasota, no way.
Watercress ($0.89 a bunch at our Vietnamese grocer, and a bit more at Sweetbay) would have been another good choice, but as we were in the middle of una tempesta, a downpour, driving anywhere wasn’t advisable. The most prudent choice seemed to be the heart of Romaine we had left from last week’s trip to the Red Barn.
The classic marinade for tagliata is a simple mixture of olive oil, sliced garlic, and rosemary. Because we knew our shoulder would need some tenderizing, we added acid: 3/4 cup of yellow grapefruit juice. (We still have some over-ripe grapefruit clinging to the tree in our yard.) We let the meat marinate in the fridge for about four hours.
At dinnertime, we grilled the steak (over palmetto again) until rare* and let it rest, covered, for approximately ten minutes. (As an accompaniment, we also grilled two halves of a sweet, white Florida onion.) We sliced the meat on the bias into 1/2 in. slices and served it over the Romaine, with an additional dressing of olive oil and balsamic vinegar .
The last two ciabatta rolls rounded out this final feast.
* Even at $1.49 per pound, we consider our steak to be an investment. As such, we wanted it to be as good as it could be. Though we hovered around the grill as it cooked, we wanted another edge. We used an instant-read thermometer to assure that we’d remove the steak from the grill when it reached an internal temperature of 120 F. We expected the temperature to rise an additional 5 degrees in carry-over cooking as the steak rested; an internal reading of 125 F. gave us a perfectly done, rare steak.
1.73 Lb. boneless beef shoulder roast: $2.58
Misc. bread for the week: $3.00
Total food stamp funds remaining: $11.04 – 5.58 = $5.46
In a couple of days, we’ll write a summary and assessment of our participation in the Food Stamp Challenge. With nearly $5.50 left over, we feel we’ve done very well. However, the real challenge lies ahead. How do we encourage actual food stamp recipients to look at our example and devise their own ways to prepare and share better meals with their families and friends.
Links to the other posts in our series:
Living on $42.00 Per Week—the Challenge
Living on $42.00 Per Week—Day 1
Living on $42.00 Per Week—Day 2
Living on $42.00 Per Week—Day 3
Living on $42.00 Per Week—Day 4
Living on $42.00 Per Week—Day 5
Living on $42.00 Per Week—Day 6
Living on $42.00 Per Week—Summary
Living on $42.00 Per Week—Redux