Saturday, January 30, 2010

A Day in the Life: Supper

As food and rent prices continue to rise and your income remains the same; as you cut back on everything else and still there's no room, you're left with only one choice: Cut down your food expenses or lose your shelter.

As with breakfast, supper for me is - with rare exception - the same everyday: a lentil soupy concoction with rice or pasta.

I make a batch of it in a pot and it provides me with meals for eight to ten days.

  • 1/2 cup dry green lentils. The local grocer sells them in bulk at $0.21/100 grams or $2.10/kg. I buy one kilogram at a time. (Red lentils are sold at twice the price.)
  • 1 small can tomato paste. I buy the NoName brand sold at the local Canadian Superstore. Regular price is $0.54; sometimes it's on sale for $0.50. I used to use a large can of tomatoes but that became too pricey. Tomato paste delivers the same nutrition and flavour; it's just minus the chewy pulp.
  • 3-4 cups cooked rice or pasta. Rice is cheaper, even with the price having gone up so much, and I understand it's better nutritionally. If you can manage it, use brown rice instead of white. Beware of false economy. I buy Basmati rice. While an expensive variety, it absorbs much more water than regular rice does. If you've pasta, you can substitute that in place of rice.
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon or lime, including the pulp. Use the real fruit, not juice extract. Realemon or Realime are more water than juice.
  • Optional: 2 cups of frozen veggies. The dish has a nicer consistency, adds important nutrients, and fills your belly more if you can add this. I buy frozen veggies only if they're substantially reduced in price, however. It's a great treat when my budget can manage it.
  • Optional: 1 tsp. tumeric, if you have it. Check out the bulk bins. It might be cheaper than in the little bottles, but be careful to comparison shop. Food sold in bulk bins is often higher priced than when sold pre-packaged.
  • Optional: 1/4 to 1/2 tsp. cayenne, if you have it. Same advice re purchasing in bulk.

Pour lentils into a container of cold water and soak for 24 hours. Drain. Sprout the lentils for two days. (You can skip the sprouting and just cook the lentils, but that's less nutritional.)

To sprout the lentils,
  1. Line a colander with a clean cotton cloth. I use an old handkerchief.
  2. Pour the drained lentils into the colander.
  3. Rinse the lentils thoroughly under a cold tap.
  4. Fold the corners of the cloth over the lentils. Pour cold water over cloth to soak it.
  5. Let water drain through the colander. Put aside for 24 hours.
  6. Uncover the lentils and repeat steps 3 through 5.
  7. Do one final rinse of the sprouts.
Once your lentils are sprouted, pour 1-1/2 litres, or quarts, of water into a saucepan. (Less water, say 1 litre, will thicken the consistency, but the dish won't last as long.) Add the tomato paste and optional tumeric and cayenne. Heat to boiling.

If you're using frozen veggies, add to boiling water, reduce heat to simmer, and cook covered for ten minutes.

Remove from heat.

Add the sprouted lentils and stir.

Add the cooked rice or pasta. Add lemon or lime juice - don't skip this step; the juice is a natural preservative. Mix well.

Store refrigerated.

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