LBL: The First Day at $1.50

2013-04-29 09.02.17Today is the first day of the Live Below the Line challenge. From April 29 – May 3, me and my teammate will only be able to eat $1.50 worth of food per day per person, for a combined total of $15 for the week.

Earlier in the week we went shopping at the Dekalb Farmer’s Market to obtain the meager selection of rice, beans, oats, cornmeal and what few vegetables we could afford, checking in at $14.82 used in the budget. I’ve been dreaming of using that $0.18 for bananas.

I spent Sunday afternoon and evening preparing for the first day. I made my own soymilk (without a soymilk machine), took half the okara pulp to dry and used half of the wet steamed okara in an adapted version of sweet pepper cornbread, then steamed some rice and set black beans to simmer. I had previously soaked the black beans for a good 6 – 8 hours before cooking.

The soymilk took the longest to do because it was the first time I have attempted to make it. I used a ‘quick soak’ method to process the beans. I washed a cup of dry soybeans, then put them in a pot with 5 cups of water. I brought the water to boil then turned off the burner and let the beans soak for 1 – 2 hours.

After quick soaking I poured them into a sieve and drained the water, washed them again and then put half the beans in a blender. I put 2 cups of hot water in the blender and pureed the beans on high for 1 minute. I poured that puree into the same pot I had soaked them in, then pureed the second batch. After combining all puree in the pot, I put the mixture over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until it began to boil (or foam quickly rose). Then I put the heat down to medium-low and simmered for 8 minutes, still stirring. Once cooked, I placed the sieve over a colander and another pot. I placed a cheese cloth bag over the sieve and poured the cooked soybean puree into the bag, twisted it closed and began pressing the milk out of the pulp with a potato masher. Once I couldn’t press anymore out, I opened the bag and stirred the pulp up, then poured 1 1/2 cups of boiling water over the pulp and pressed it again to get the most amount of milk I could.

I ended up with about a liter of soymilk. I put two pinches of sea salt and about half a teaspoon of sugar in the warm soymilk and let it cool. It can be drunk warm, but I placed it in the fridge after a small quality control taste. When I was planning for Live Below the Line, I knew I wanted soybeans to make soymilk, but also for the leftover pulp the process creates. It’s called okara and can be used wet (after being “steamed” during the cooking process) or dry to replace white flour/eggs/butter. I took half of the wet okara and used it in place of eggs/butter in a cornbread recipe.

For my cornbread, I had decided I wanted to give it some flavor since we wouldn’t have any butter with it. I roasted two sweet peppers in the oven (you can do this by setting the oven to broil and placing the peppers on a non-stick baking sheet, turning every so often until they are a little charred). I mixed 1 cup of cornmeal with a teaspoon of pepper, salt, sugar and a few pinches of basil. I mixed the dry ingredients with 1 cup of wet okara, the chopped sweet peppers, two teaspoons of canola oil and 1/2 cup of soymilk. I baked the mixture in an oiled pan for 10 minutes on 450, then continued baking another 25 minutes at 325 degrees. Unfortunately, the pan I used was too big and I spread the mixture too thin and they were a little more crisp than they should have been.

For the 1 cup of black beans, after soaking for 6 – 8 hours and then washing them, I decided to simmer in 3 cups of water with 1/6 of a chopped yellow onion, 1 clove of garlic, 1 sweet pepper and a pinch or two of salt, pepper and sugar. I put it all together and brought to a boil, then turned down the heat to simmer for about 60 minutes. I turned off the heat and let them sit overnight to soak in all the spices/flavors and gently boiled them for another 5 minutes in the morning. I steamed 1 cup of rice in a rice cooker and packed that in the fridge overnight.

This morning we ate 1/3 cup of rolled oats each, cooked on stove top with a little soymilk. I flavored mine with sugar and cinnamon. We each had a small glass (maybe 1 cup each) of soymilk to drink with the oats.

Lunch is shortly, and we’ll have simmered black beans in onion, garlic and peppers with steamed white rice and sweet pepper cornbread.

I’m considering curry lentils with carrots and radish and some rice for dinner tonight. I know I’ll have to make more soymilk, so I set another cup to soak while at work. I’m trying the long soak method for it today to see if there is any flavor change in the milk.

I’ll keep dreaming of bananas in my oats and consider this week probably one of the healthiest/low-fat weeks of my life.


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