Menu Plan Monday: Amaranth Polenta, Split Pea and Sweet Potato Soup, Cauliflower Tacos, and More


Happy Monday, friends. I hope you all had an enjoyable weekend!

This week’s menu plan is a little more fun than last week’s, which was circumscribed by an exam. I’m making my African spiced yellow split pea and sweet potato soup again (with a few tiny modifications). I’ve been eating it often this winter; it’s cheap, filling, nutrient dense, and I love the color and spice combination. I’m also excited to whip up the cauliflower and oyster mushroom tacos from Food52 Vegan on Friday night (they are a favorite recipe of mine from the book), as well as a new amaranth polenta recipe on Wednesday. If that one’s a hit, you’ll be seeing it on the blog!

Menu Plan Monday

Here’s what’s ahead:


African spiced split pea and sweet potato soup
Slow cooker black bean, butternut squash, and quinoa chili
●New amaranth polenta recipe
Cauliflower and oyster mushroom tacos


●Basmati rice (to stir in the split pea and sweet potato soup)
●Bicolor quinoa
Turmeric tahini dressing


The Menu Plan

Sunday/Monday: African spiced split pea and sweet potato soup (with carrots and celery thrown in) | Big salad or steamed greens with turmeric tahini dressing

Tuesday: Leftover slow cooker black bean, butternut squash, and quinoa chili | Sauteed collards

Wednesday: New amaranth polenta recipe | Big salad with lemon vinaigrette

Thursday: Leftover yam and peanut stew with kale (from the freezer) | Green bean and walnut salad

FridayCauliflower and oyster mushroom tacos from Food52 Vegan

Saturday: Sweetgreen salads to-go (there’s a new sweetgreen in the neighborhood, and sometimes we make it our Saturday night treat) or something from the freezer


Before I sign off for today, I wanted to float a question to readers. As part of my Community class this semester, all students are being asked to do the SNAP challenge for seven days. This challenge is intended to help participants better understand what it means to be food insecure and have only SNAP benefits available for the weekly acquisition of food. You can read more about the challenge here and here.

Typically the challenge is to spend no more than $4.50 per day on food (about $31.50 for the week, per person). My class is being given a $40 maximum, which is pretty generous. If another person in our household wishes to participate as well, we’re invited to combine food budgets (so, $80 for two people). We only shop at grocery stores or farmers markets that accept food stamps, and we can’t pick up any additional food (so: no grabbing a cup of coffee at Starbucks, no restaurant dining, no takeout, no grab-n-go food). We can use spices, herbs, and oils from our pantry, but we have to purchase everything else we’ll eat (which means that we can’t use other pantry items we have on hand).

While I’ll be doing as much grocery planning as I always do at the start of my week, we’ve been encouraged not to plan things too meticulously; the goal of the challenge isn’t to game the system by coming up with an elaborate scheme to maximize the given budget. I’ll be thinking about recipes that I can stretch for the week, but I won’t be turning it into a perfect science, either. Steven wants to participate with me, and we’re going to try to shoot closer to a $63.00 budget for two people, rather than $80, if possible.

I’m thinking about sharing the challenge in my Menu Plan Monday post for that respective week, as well as sharing some of the recipes I make while on the challenge. I wanted to take your temperature on it first, though — is this something you’d all be interested in reading about? In full disclosure, while I look forward to the challenge, I also have some conflicted feelings. To some degree it feels problematic to be a tourist for seven days in a scenario that defines everyday life for so many, and I wonder if it actually underscores privilege. Still, I hope the challenge will give me (and all of my fellow classmates) a better understanding of what it means to have one’s food choices circumscribed each week, and I hope that I might become a more conscious consumer as a result.

Curious to hear if you’d like to follow along here on the blog — and if not, that’s cool, too!

Have a wonderful Monday, all.


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  1. The past few years have had financial challenges for my family and I have gotten to shopping day and been afraid that I wouldn’t have enough for groceries. It is a scary feeling. I keep staples in my house – especially beans. Bean soups can go along way. I would like to follow your snap challenge.

  2. I would love to read along with your challenge as well. I think it’s an interesting point that you make about being a tourist in someone else’s life, but at the same time I think that any act that brings awareness to a problem is beneficial. Good luck!

  3. I am in the second semester of a two semester sequence community nutrition course. I would love to participate in the challenge along with you and other readers. That way I’ll gain the experience, and will also be able to report back to my prof about it. If it seems to be a beneficial challenge, perhaps she would look at incorporating it!

  4. Yes please Gena! I’m always struggling to wrangle my food budget and would appreciate a meal plan full of healthy choices on a limited budget.

  5. I would be interested in reading about your experience and the fact that you are being pro-actively sensitive is reflective of you awareness, which I greatly appreciate.

    As someone in a DPD program myself, I think having the opportunity to understand what people we work with might experience is a valuable thing as long as we do it with critical thinking and empathy!

  6. HI Gena, I can see why you have conflicted feelings about the SNAP challenge. All of us reading along here will most likely also be “tourists” too. The people I know who are on that kind of budget on a regular basis live quite a different life than most of us do. Yet I agree that it’s really a great educational exercise for your class to participate in, and I don’t see any reason why we can’t also learn something from it, too. The fact that you float the question to us with the complexity it deserves already makes it appealing. Thanks.

  7. I would be really grateful if you could please share your weekly meal plans evolving financial aspect of it. That’s sound like a great idea.

  8. Yes, I’d love to follow your SNAP trial. I’m a new follower of yours, but this is just the kind of thing I like. Thanks!

  9. I don’t use SNAP, but the hubs and I are vegans on a very tight budget. I would be interested in reading about your experience.

  10. I would love to hear about your SNAP experience! Thanks for wanting to share it with your readers. Everything you do is awesome! I adore your blog and I love reading every post.

  11. Amazing! That would be great, I’ve been looking for practical vegan resources for those on a strict budget and have found there’s actually a bit of a shortage. This will be really helpful. Thanks!

  12. I’d love to hear about your experiences with the food stamp project. It’s definitely something I’d like to be more aware and knowledgable about.

  13. I love the idea of the SNAP challenge. Just because something is a choice, doesn’t diminish the value of the experience at all, in my opinion. I mean, Lent is a voluntary experience (even if it coincided, historically, with very real food shortages, it was from the beginning a way of creating a kind of solidarity among those whose larders were bare and those abstaining for spiritual purposes), and that is the whole point (to abstain voluntarily). So I think if the intention of those taking the snap challenge is to better understand what it’s like to try and eat healthfully on a tiny allowance, and if the experiment, however short-lived, leads to more awareness, more compassion, more solidarity across class lines, etc., that’s a very good thing. Especially if it translates into heightened political sensitivity.

  14. I’d certainly be interested in reading about your experience with the challenge, especially since I know that you’ll navigate your complicated feelings about privilege and access with care and thoughtfulness.

  15. That sounds like it would be a very interesting experiment! I would certainly be curious to read about your experiences from it. I know a bit about the SNAP program but I would like to learn more and see what benefits it provides as well as the challenges.