I wanted to recognize the summer solstice with some special foods and an intention-setting ceremony for the season, but I had a commitment on the evening of the Solstice itself. Then I discovered that the Smithsonian Museums were celebrating “Solstice Saturday” with lots of special activities and many of the museums staying open until midnight. I decided if Solstice Saturday is good enough for the Smithsonian, it’s good enough for us!
I thought this was also a good opportunity to make a celebratory menu within the confines of our SNAP challenge (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, click here), since that is something people on limited incomes have to figure out all the time.
For lunch, I made one of my favorite summer soups–a recipe that I call “Farmer’s Market Soup.” Basically, I take home some of my favorite summer vegetables from the Farmer’s Market, cook them in broth, puree them into a soup with my immersion blender, and serve with a dollop of my favorite jalapeño goat cheese that I also get at the Farmer’s Market. It just captures the fresh taste of the Market in a light, summery soup.
There were a few issues doing this within the SNAP Challenge, however.
- I couldn’t afford to buy the vegetables at the Farmer’s Market (I’ll talk about that in a later post), and I couldn’t afford to buy as many different vegetables as usual, so the vegetable component would probably be less tasty than usual. The two things I did about that was to cook the onions longer until they were almost caramelized to give them more flavor, and use the more flavorful chicken broth over the vegetable broth I usually use for this recipe.
- This is usually a pretty thin soup that I usually serve with a sandwich or entree, rather than being a stand-alone meal. To bulk it up a bit, I modified a trick I had learned from a Julia Child cookbook years ago. I boiled brown basmati rice in a limited amount of water so that the end product was kind of a rice slurry. I pureed that with my immersion blender until it was the consistency of yogurt or applesauce.Once I made the soup, I mixed the rice in with the vegetable broth, and the soup became more the consistency of a cream-based soup with little change in taste and without the expense and fat of heavy cream. In addition, brown basmati rice has a lot of healthy vitamins and minerals, along with complex, low-glycemic carbohydrates and lots of fiber, which helps you feel full. I hadn’t fixed it that way before, but it totally worked, so that’s a SNAP Challenge hack I can recommend.
- Being all vegetables, the soup can be a little low-key. That’s why I traditionally add a tablespoon of the jalapeño goat cheese, which gives it a little “kick.” However, at $8 for a 5 ounce container, that wasn’t going to fly on our SNAP budget. As a substitute, I got an 8 ounce container of cream cheese with chives that was on sale for $2 at the grocery store. I took a little less than half of it and mixed in half of one of the jalapeño peppers we had bought, which I had diced finely. It wasn’t as good as the goat cheese, but it did the trick.
I also toasted one slice each of the loaf of bread that needs to last us for the week to eat with the soup. I believe that, psychologically, most people feel less full if they haven’t had to chew something in their meal.
The meal was a hit! My son, home for the summer after his first year at college and accustomed to the “all you can eat” buffets of the college dining hall, declared it was “wonderful” and “surprisingly filling” and only required about a half bowl for seconds (filling him up may be my biggest challenge in the Challenge). I thought it was still summery and one bowl filled me up. Plus, we still have enough for at least one other lunch, which I was counting on…but I didn’t know for sure how it would play out. I’m encouraged by the success of our first Solstice Saturday meal.
We began the evening with Summer Solstice-inspired intention-setting ritual to clarify what we wanted to accomplish and what we wanted to let go of in the next three months. Then we had our Summer Solstice dinner.
Ordinarily, I probably would have fixed salmon for our Solstice meal. We love it and it has so many health benefits, and I believe it is also traditionally connected to so-called “Mid-summer” or Litha celebrations in at least the Celtic pagan traditions (although I am not an expert in that, so I could be wrong). I only buy sustainable fish, and salmon, when it is on sale at our natural/healthy grocery stores, is at least $9/pound, and that was just too rich for our SNAP Challenge budget.
I tried to think of something else that would be a treat for our Solstice night. Eventually, I decided on a Summer Southern classic, which we don’t have very often because I don’t think it is super healthy, although we always like it..but on a special occasion like the Solstice, why not?
So our special Summer Solstice Saturday dinner was…..
BLT Sandwich! (That’s Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato Sandwich, for those who are not familiar with this Southern/US tradition).
Part of my precious Farmer’s Market dollars went towards a couple of tomatoes, because not even the high-end organic health food market tomatoes can compare with the all-natural heirloom tomatoes I get at the Market. The bacon was uncured (I’m concerned about nitrates), the lettuce was conventional from the grocery store, and the bread was fresh-baked local sourdough (slathered with mayonnaise, of course). Together it was an affordable meal we don’t eat very often to recognize the physical beginning of summer.
I served it with fresh corn on the cob (our local natural grocery store is selling 4 ears of non-GMO corn for $1!) and planned to include watermelon, although my son chose to have one of his bananas instead. Still, it was a nice summery but budget-friendly meal to acknowledge the beginning of summer.
All in all, I think we did well on our first day of our SNAP Challenge!