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Week 4 - Sunday - Four Weeks and a Decision

I'm pretty excited about brunch this morning. I've devised a clever plan, and I can't wait to see how it turned out. Last week I noticed that the tempeh package insert recommended marinating it, and then frying it in sesame oil until crisp. I'm not going to use sesame oil for that, at least not this week—it's too expensive. But it does give me an idea.

Last night, after dinner, I mixed together 1/4 cup of soy sauce and 1 TB of maple syrup, cut a package of tempeh into strips, and marinated it overnight. My idea is to create a salty-sweet flavored tempeh, and then to fry the strips to see if it's at all bacon-like.

I'm not usually in favor of trying to make vegetable foods seem like meat. My feeling, even during the early ideological phase of my vegetarianism, is: if you really want to eat meat, go have some. In fact, when I first became a vegetarian, that's how I got myself through. If, at lunch, I really wanted, say, some red meat, I'd say to myself "If you still want red meat at dinnertime, you can have some." I never wanted it by then, but I'll bet if I hadn't allowed the possibility, I would have quickly abandoned my new diet. I can resist eating meat. I am less successful resisting the taste of forbidden fruit.

In the last two years, I've tried several recipes from Passionate Vegetarian that call for soysage or the like. I have had to admit that in some cases it has made a great improvement in the dish (primarily for the variety of texture and chewiness it lends to the final dish).

My attempt today isn't to recreate meat, of course. The appeal lies mainly in the chemistry-set aspect of the whole thing. If I do this and then that, what will happen? I scramble eggs and warm some leftover cornbread in the oven while I fry the tempeh strips in a little oil.

So brunch is exciting. I plate the food and put everything on the table. Jesse takes a bite of one of the strips and says "Bacon! Wow!" HA HA! Just kidding. No one is fooled by my food experiment.

In flavor, I have to say, I should have added a little liquid smoke to the marinade if I wanted it to be bacon-like. (Liquid smoke, by the way, is a natural product made by liquifying smoke.)

In looks and texture, the tempeh is most like tempeh, and then second-most like sausage. With the right marinade, and especially if it was crumbled or otherwise incorporated into a dish, this might provide a somewhat less expensive alternative to soysage.

So, this marinated and then fried tempeh is not at all like meat, but good. Jesse is not a tempeh fan, but I should be able to feed him this from time to time without complaint.

Dinner is our usual: Whole Wheat Pizza and a small salad. I made a mistake shopping on Friday, which I notice as I mix the whole wheat bread flour and the whole wheat pastry flour together. It just doesn't seem to hold together like it usually does, and when I attempt to windowpane the dough, it seems less resilient than usual. When I check the containers in the refrigerator, my suspicions are confirmed: I bought pastry flour instead of bread flour at the store Friday.

At dinner, Jesse comments that this crust's texture is more traditional than my usual recipe. I suspect he may like it better than my usual pizza. (By the way, I will be putting up a revised version of that recipe with food processor directions—the way I usually make it now—when I have time after this is over.)

When I started this project 4 Mondays ago, I intended to pursue it through today, and then stop. Four weeks seemed like a good trial. Besides, we're leaving Thursday, and I'm not sure I can maintain this level of documentation (which has taken far more time than I ever dreamed it would) while doing everything necessary to prepare for our next trip.

I spent a little time last week poking around the the USDA site, just to make sure I had it right: Food Stamp recipients get their allotment on a regular schedule, every 4 weeks, right? Wrong.

Food Stamp benefits will be made available to you on a monthly basis. Some states issue every client's benefits on the first day of the month while other States issue benefits on different days of the month. The day on which your food stamp benefits become available may depend on your last name, the last digit of your social security number, or on some other factor.

This explains the discrepancy between the $74/couple per week, and the $320.80/couple per month that confused me when I started. The Thrifty Food Plan allows me $24.80 for the additional 2-3 days of the month—plus whatever I've been able to save from previous weeks.

I will admit, on my most busy days this month, I've had the fantasy of eating out every single night next week. I know I won't be able to do this all the way through Thursday: that's the day we leave. But I started a day early, on April 30. Continuing through Wednesday of next week will give me 31 days of eating on this budget—though I doubt if I'll be able to create weekly and monthly summaries until I get home.

When I started this project, I had no intention of carrying it into Week 5. But I guess there's really nothing preventing me from cooking and eating at home through the rest of the month.

So I'm in.

Sunday's total includes milk ($1.99) and a yogurt cube ($0.09) to make yogurt.

Sunday total: $9.49. Remaining weekly allowance: $6.41

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If you can, you should pick up a copy of "Vegan with a Vegnence" by Isa Chandra Moscowitz (I'm sure there are plenty of mis-spellings in there). Her tempeh bacon is my favorite, with Peta's Better than Bacon (which uses tofu) being second. Isa's recipe might actually be on her forum (

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about this project

» How did it begin?
» Week 1: Monday | Tuesday | Wednesday | Thursday | Friday | Saturday | Sunday | Photos | Summary: Under budget - $3.20
» Week 2: Monday | Tuesday | Wednesday | Thursday | Friday | Saturday | Sunday | Photos | Summary: Under budget - $13.34
» Week 3: Monday | Tuesday | Wednesday | Thursday | Friday | Saturday | Sunday | Photos | Summary: Under budget - $7.15
» Week 4: Monday | Tuesday | Wednesday | Thursday | Friday | Saturday | Sunday | Photos | Summary: Under budget - $6.41
» Week 5: Monday | Tuesday | Wednesday | Photos

other food challenges

» Above Average Jane
» The Eat Local Challenge
» The April 2007 Penny-Wise Eat Local Challenge
» Half-Changed World
» Slow Food for Low and Moderate Income People
» Tinotopia's Food Stamp Diet

other food projects

Food is a Munition of War: living for one month on UK WWII rations

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