$5 Dinner Winner

Slow Food. As opposed to fast food. I bet you have heard of it. It's a way of eating and a way of life.

Founded in 1989, Slow Food is a global, grassroots organization that was established to discourage the growing (and unhealthy) obsession with fast food and processed food. It was also started with the hope of inspiring people to get back in the kitchen and cook, ask where food comes from, care about how it looks and tastes and recognize that the food choices we make greatly affect so many things in our world.

The non-profit organization advocates for food and farming policy that is good for people like you and me and they depend on people like you and me to help them spread their message. (You can become a member or make a donation to support the cause.)

I have always been a non-card carrying member of "slow food," since I can't remember my grandmother ever cooking anything from a box or defrosting processed food from the freezer. I was raised on real food and that is the whole purpose of the Slow Food movement. But it has been in the last 15 years that I have become a vocal proponent, and now that we operate a weekly farmers market, I am realizing the intrinsic value of the effort and how I play a larger role.

Slow Food USA, which was established in 2000, recently threw down the gauntlet when they launched a $5 Challenge to their followers--to prepare a meal for $5 per person. $5? Yes.

Instead of buying a $5 meal at a fast food restaurant or picking up a ready-to-eat (sodium soaked) rotisserie chicken at the grocery store along with several prepared sides, this is a challenge that will put you in the kitchen. Certainly, the more people in your family, the more elaborate your meal can be. I think it's easier to create an exciting meal for four people for $20 than 1 person with just $5, but it can still be done. And well.

My first post about the $5 Challenge on Facebook was August 23 on the Quarry Farmers & Ranchers Market page. I have also featured the "challenge" in our market's weekly enewsletter hoping to encourage people to make a meal for $5 per person. Lucky for us, the newly formed local chapter, Slow Food South Texas, is exhibiting at the market during the month of September to share the Slow Food mission and messages with customers and hope they "challenge" their friends and family to do the same.

David and I get $10 to prepare a meal and there are plenty of options that go beyond rice and beans. Here's a few options that I ran across in reviewing past recipes featured here:  Argentinean Burger, Baked Chicken with Peppers, BLTA SaladBreaded Cutlet with Arugula, Egg Salad, Farmhouse Veggie Burger, Heather's Mexican Breakfast, Lentil Soup with Spicy Italian Sausage, Meatloaf with Brown Mushroom Gravy, Potato Pancakes, Spanish Tortilla, Split Pea Soup, Vegetarian Chili, World's Best Pinto Beans and Zucchini-Ricotta Fritters

If nothing grabs you from that list, we're making pasta with Italian sausage, mozzarella and cherry peppers along with a salad. Nothing too fancy, but neither too plebeian either. Here's the breakdown of the costs:

$2.50 Italian sausage (surprise, surprise, it's our lucky day! They happened to be on sale, yea!!) 
$1.50 homemade tomato sauce (I bought a box of tomato "seconds" for $6 at the farmers market this summer and made tons of sauce; let's say we're using $1.50 of the $8 it cost me to make tons of sauce.)
$.90 pasta (Dreamfields pasta is $1.99 a box and we're using 8 oz. or just over half the 13.25 oz. box, plus I used a coupon worth 55 cents when I bought the box for just $1.44, so I racked up even more savings.)
$.50 for 3 hot cherry peppers (A jar of cherry peppers is less than $3 and we're just using a few, so 50 cents sounds fair, doesn't it?)
$.30 Pecorino-Reggiano (I bought a chunk for about $5, but we're using just a bit to grate for garnish)
$2.50 freshly pulled mozzarella balls
$.50 salad greens
$.75 cherry tomatoes for salad
$.25 extra virgin olive oil and vinegar for salad dressing
$9.70 total

Our hearty and fabulous meal for less than $10.

Rag pasta with homemade tomato sauce, a few sliced hot cherry peppers,
Italian sausage, fresh mozzarella and Pecorino-Romano.

So the challenge is on. When deciding what to make for your $5 Challenge meal this Saturday, September 17, think about how creative you can get and be as frugal as possible. I think you may astound yourself! 

I'd love to know what you made for $5 per person. You can email me at heather@cowgirlgranola.com, post a note on my Cowgirl Granola Facebook page or make a comment here.

Buen provecho!
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