Food Stamps and Potlucks

sandwichSo my very first dayof the hunger challenge I am faced with a dilemma, that I did not deal with last year, and that’s social dining and guests.  Just because you’re on a limited budget and using food stamps, this doesn’t mean you don’t want to connect with family, friends and community.  Perhaps eating in a communal setting actually helps feed more and gives more variety too.  But how do you create meals that can be expanded to feed more on the same $4 a day?

You’ll note I added some large loaves of bread, veggies and goat cheese to my list.  I was to bring a main lunch item to a family gathering and I made my Big Veggie Sandwich from Petit Appetit: Eat, Drink and Be Merry, with a few adjustments.  I used japanese eggplant instead of mushrooms and doubled the recipe for two sandwiches.  In looking at the recipe I just realized I omitted the artichoke hearts on my shopping list, since they were already onhand.  I’ll add another $3 to my bill.  (Good thing I added some cushion).  I even have a few left-over veggies that I cooked, but didn’t add to the sandwiches (I’ll use them later in pasta). The two sandwiches cost about $22 to make total (more than 1 1/2 days of total food bill).  This also made me realize that shopping and planning is crucial.  And why doing the challenge determining grocerieis rather than individual pricing of meals makes more sense, and is like we all shop and plan.  We don’t buy $4 of ingredients per day.  If I hadn’t factored in the event and it had been toward the end of the week, I may not have budgeted for enough food.  Thus I can see another issue of not having enough food and finance – and that’s feeling isolation.

The really good thing is that while the sandwiches were a hit, and there was so much food (which usually happens at a potluck) that I took home an entire sandwich.  This meant we had a few bites for dinner (we were still a bit full from the lunch) and ate it again tonight with a can of minestrone soup.  There’s even one square left which I plan to eat for my lunch tomorrow.  Each sandwich (about $11) is a hearty 8 adult servings, but with sides at the original luncheon it was certainly stretched to 16 servings.  So about .70 per serving.

Here’s the recipe…

Makes 8 (2-inch-wide) servings, or 16 (squares) 


1 (1-pound) ciabatta or pugliese loaf, about 14 × 7 inches

1 organic red bell pepper

1 zucchini

1 summer squash

1 portobello mushroom

3 tablespoons, plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme

1 (14-ounce) can water-packed artichoke hearts, chopped

4 ounces goat cheese (rBGH free)


Preheat oven to 440 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Spray a 12 × 9-inch glass baking dish with oil. Slice vegetables lengthwise into ¼- to 1/3-inch-thick slices and layer in prepared dish.

In a small bowl, whisk together 2 tablespoons of the oil, the vinegar, and thyme. Brush vegetables with oil mixture. Bake for 25 minutes, until vegetables are tender. Remove from oven and set aside. Leave oven on.

Cut the bread lengthwise down the center so you have a top and bottom. Lay pieces, cut sides up, on prepared baking sheet. Spread the artichoke hearts on bottom half and goat cheese on the top half. Drizzle artichokes with 1 teaspoon of the oil. Bake for about 5 minutes, until warm.

Layer vegetable slices on bread over artichokes and top with remaining bread, goat cheese side down. Press sandwich together and weigh top of sandwich with a baking dish or heavy plate. Let sit for 5 minutes before cutting.


Packing Tip. If taking these for travel, be sure to wrap tightly and place toothpicks in each section to hold together. Remove picks before serving.