Friday, November 3, 2017

Eating Vegan on a Budget in a Food Desert Part 2: 7-Elempanadas

"7-Elempanadas" made with only ingredients available at 7-Eleven in North Long Beach.

Welcome to North Long Beach, California.  Northtown (aka Northside, Norf Norf, or Uptown) is a community of 17 diverse and colorful neighborhoods, and filled with about 93,000 diverse and colorful residents.*

Northtown is a working class neighborhood. Many families live here. In fact, it is home to roughly one fifth of Long Beach's entire population! The main streets are lined with small businesses, apartment buildings, and churches while the interior neighborhoods are filled mostly with modest two and three bedroom single family homes and duplexes. The homes and apartments here range from historic Spanish, and California Bungalows, to classic post World War II era little boxes, with a few unsightly (imho) ginormous stucco apartment buildings built in the 80s and beyond.

North Long Beach is a vibrant part of the city. Full of diverse cultures, art, and hard working folks. From Left to right: A shiny new North Town firetruck from new Fire Station 12 on Artesia, The Harmony mural, Xochi Mochi reading to kids as part of the Drag Queen Story Hour at the Michelle Obama Neighborhood Library, Jordan High School.

It is also home to 84 fast-food type restaurants, at least 33 liquor stores, 17 gas stations with snacks and/or liquor, 6 mini-markets, and at least 2 dollar-type discount marts. Oh yeah, to serve all 93,000 men, women, and children, we also have four whole grocery stores. One Big Saver Foods, one Superior Grocers, and two Food for Less markets. We also have a Walmart and a Target. Just outside the line is a WinCo foods, but technically, that is in Lakewood.

*According to the 2010 U.S. Census, the neighborhood was home to over 93,000 people. Roughly 54% of the population was Hispanic, roughly 21% were black, roughly 8.7% were non-Hispanic whites, and roughly 11% were Asian. There is also a significant Tongan and Samoan population.

As I mentioned in the previous post, a food desert is when in a low-access community, at least 500 people, and/or at least 33 percent of the census tract's population, resides more than one mile from a supermarket or large grocery store. The concept behind this is that it is reasonable for a shopper to be able to carry groceries one walking mile.

The below map shows a grey circle mapping a one mile radius with my house dead center. You can move that gray circle all over the map and see that the MAJORITY of the people in this census tract, are indeed living in a food desert. Those two blue dots represent La Bodega Mexicana #1 and La Bodega Mexicana #2 (also Mentioned in my previous post) and they hang-out just on the edge of my one mile radius, and are the two markets I frequent most regularly when I need some produce and don't feel like trekking all over town.

7-Eleven is a pretty much a staple in Long Beach. There are four I can walk to in my one mile radius and a total of thirteen in the city. I'm not gonna lie, it's where we stop most often when we just need a thing or two. And believe it or not, there are quite a few vegan options there. And while it is indeed a convenience store, they have stepped it up, lately, with their own private label products to offer some healthier options. Check out their "Better for You" (though not all vegan) page on their website. (I've purchased those watermelon cups on several occasions when making watermelon poke!)

So I will give credit where credit is due. 7-Eleven saw an opportunity to offer a few fresh produce items and a few healthier options to their customers that will benefit everyone, not just those living in a food desert. But here's the thing. A watermelon cup at 7-Eleven costs about twice as much as watermelon from a grocery store. That's the real rub. It's not their fault. It simply costs more to sell fewer items in a small retail space than it does to sell mass quantities in a large one.

My point is, that even when there are small corner stores making an effort to bring some healthier options into under served communities, they simply just cost more, making those fast food joints more and more attractive to hungry folks in the neighborhood. It's for this reason we need to stop judging folks who hit up Taco Bell instead of cooking dinner at home. It costs more to cook at home in many instances

So, for this post, I decided to challenge myself to make a fun recipe with only foods I could get at a 7-Eleven in my own one mile stretch.  More of a novelty than a meal...I simply set out to prove it could be done! These little guys actually came out pretty good! Lol. A little bit spicy, nice and filling, and a little boost of protein from the black beans and hummus.

Here are the ingredients I procured for my project: All-Purpose Flour ($2.29), Vegetable Oil ($3.59), Jalapeno Kettle Chips ($1.29), Roasted and Salted Whole Cashews ($1.99), a can of Black Beans ($2.19 note the sign on the shelf says $1.69...but that was for Pinto Beans), a can of Yellow Corn ($1.79), SriRacha Sauce ($2.79), and a Hummus and Pretzel cup ($2.29). My total purchase came to $18.22, but I had some leftover ingredients (flour, oil, SriRacha) that can be used for other things.

Y'all will have to think outside of the box with me on this one, okay? Seriously, this is the type of stuff I'm talking about. When you walk into a corner convenience store and think, "There's nothing I can eat here!" try looking at these things differently. For example, here we are going to crush up potato chips and add them to a wet filling. The chips will absorb the liquid and almost re-hydrate into little chunks of potato! An another, we are blending a snack bag of cashews with hot water to make a quick and easy cashew milk. Although it would be a little weird tasting on its own, it's perfect for this dough. See what I mean?

Cost for entire recipe: $10.93 (or $12.57 with the optional sauce)
Cost per serving: $.69 (or $.79 with the optional sauce)
Yield: 16 "7-Elempanadas"

For the 7-Elempanadas
$1.99 = 1 (3 oz) package roasted and salted cashews
$0.00 = 1 cup hot water
$0.88 = 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
$0.16 = 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
$2.19 = 1 (15.5 oz) can of black beans, drained, but reserving the liquid for later use
$1.79 = 1 (15.5 oz) can of yellow corn, drained and rinsed
$2.29 = hummus from the pretzel and hummus cup (you can snack on the pretzels while you're cooking!)
$0.18 = 1 tablespoon SriRacha sauce
$1.29 = 1 bag jalapeno flavored potato chips, crushed
$0.16 = 2 tablespoons additional oil for brushing
$10.93 yields 16 pieces

For the optional Black Bean SriRacha Sauce
$0.00 = 1/4 cup reserved liquid from the can of beans
$1.28 = 1 cup vegetable oil
$0.36 = 2 tablespoons SriRacha sauce (more or less to taste)
$0.00 = salt to taste
$1.64 yields 1 1/2 cups sauce

Preheat your oven to 375 F.
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper, foil, or a reusable baking mat.

To make the empanada dough, add the cashews and hot water to a blender and puree until white and no chunky pieces of cashews are left. There is no need to strain it. Just do your best with the blender you have. Set aside.
Add flour, oil, and cashew milk to a mixing bowl and knead into a soft elastic dough. If the dough is too sticky, add in more flour one tablespoon at a time.
Cover and set aside while you make the filling.
To make the filling, add beans, corn, hummus, crushed potato chips and sriracha sauce to a bowl and mix well.
Divide the dough into 16 equal pieces and roll or press into a circle about 4-inches to 5-inches in diameter.
Add about 1/4 of filling to the center of the dough.
Fold the dough over the filling to make a half circle and crimp the edges together with the tines of a fork to seal. Carefully cut a slit or two in the top to vent.
Arrange on baking sheet (I do 8 per sheet) and brush with oil.
Sprinkle lightly with black pepper or paprika or garlic powder, if desired.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden.

To make the optional Black Bean SriRacha sauce, add reserved bean liquid to the bottom of a tall slender container. Using your immerssion (stick) blender whiz until frothy. Slowly drizzle in the oil while the blender is running...I mean really slowly. Like super slow. Seriously. Slow down. This should take at least 5 minutes so the oil is completely emulsified into the bean liquid. It should be a pinkish gray color. (I know, not very appetizing, lol!)  Once all of the oil is incorporated, the mixture should be the texture of mayo. Stir in Sriracha and salt to taste.

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All recipes written by me, Joni Marie Newman, unless otherwise noted. Please feel free to refer to or link back to any of my recipes, but please ask for permission, and remember to give credit when reprinting recipes in their entirety. I do provide links to affiliate programs (such as Amazon) in which I receive a small commission for items purchased. I do not provide paid reviews. All reviews done on products or books are of my own unsolicited opinion. On occasion I may receive a book or product to review. I will note when this is the case, but rest assured, it will not affect the authenticity of my review. Thanks!--Joni