Cheap Eats at Bloglander

Your guide to eating cheap including tips, recipes and techniques

Archive for August, 2005

8/29/05 | Jif Peanut Butter

[ Currently Eating: Peanut Butter Sandwich ]

Jif Peanut ButterIf ever there was a Cheap Eats food that so many people around the world already eat without knowing it, it’s probably Peanut Butter. Besides providing endless hours of fun for your dog’s tongue, it can be a real life saver to have in the pantry for those between meal snacks. And it’s (relatively) cheap. I know some people who subsisted on peanut butter sandwiches in the “lean years”…

You can make the traditional peanut butter sandwich, or use it as a dip with veggies like carrots or celery. Or you can go Elvis with a Peanut Butter and Banana sandwich if you’re feeling adventurous. Or maybe make Vietnamese peanut dipping sauce for spring rolls. And there are a billion deserts to make with peanut butter in them from cookies to pies.

We usually buy the smooth variety of Jif Peanut Butter. The smooth type just seems to have more uses for it; I know a lot of recipes specifically call for non-chunky peanut butter. Not that I don’t also dig chunky peanut butter. Also, I always get the “Jif” and “Skippy” mixed up; and quite often call it “Jiffy”. Maybe because Jiffy is the popcorn brand (Jiffy Pop).

Peanut Butter also seems to last nearly forever, even after it’s opened. I know it can go stale though (smelling stale peanut butter = not recommended). But if you aren’t making sandwiches on a regular basis and just using it for between meal munchies, a jar can still last you a long time.

Continue reading “Jif Peanut Butter” …

[ Currently Eating: Taco Plate ]

Barilla SpaghettiI haven’t put a recipe up on Cheap Eats in such a long time because I haven’t had much chance to cook lately. Well, the other day at the supermarket we picked up 2 packages of Barilla Thin Spaghetti because they were only 99 cents each (this is fairly cheap for Barilla which is more expensive than Anthony brand spaghetti or super market generic spaghetti). But I didn’t really get to make a “real” recipe, just some fast tomato basil pasta… but I’m going to put up the recipe anyhow. We got basil for free (someone actually grew it) so that was why I decided to make it.

I don’t know if it’s because Barilla comes in a box so it seems more “upscale” or something, but I always preferred their quality over generic. Their mostaccioli, penne, and bowtie pasta is actually pretty decent too. We dig “Thin Spaghetti” over Angel Hair pasta… angel hair doesn’t seem to soak up enough sauce and also seems too much like Japanese Somen which we eat a lot of already. It also seems easier to cook thin spaghetti exactly “al dente” than normal spaghetti. Somehow more forgiving.

Anyhow, here’s one take on fast garlic, basil and tomatoes pasta. Note this isn’t conventional thick “spaghetti ragu sauce” … I just make it to barely coat the noodles. I’m sure you have your own variations:

Quick Basil and Tomato Pasta

1/2 box Barilla pasta — $0.50
Basil, cut in a chiffonade — Free, hopefully
6 cloves garlic, slivered or minced — $0.10
Olive oil (1-2 tbsp) — $0.10
1 Can Petite Diced Tomatoes — $0.45
Parmesan cheese (1/4 oz of $3.50 8oz can) — $0.11
1 tsp of dried oregano — $0.05
pinch of red pepper flakes — $0.02
1 tbsp sugar — $0.02
salt, pepper — negligible

Total: $1.35

Start boiling a lot of water in a big pot for the pasta. Wash the basil, remove stems so there are only the leaves. Set aside. Peel and mince (or sliver if desired) all 6 garlic cloves. In a skillet, heat up 1 tbsp of the olive oil (extra virgin olive oil tastes best) over medium heat for a minute or so. Add the oregano (if dried, roll between fingers to release more flavor), garlic, red pepper flakes and a few grinds of black pepper to the oil and cook for about 1-2 minutes or until fragrant. Don’t let the garlic and oregano burn, turn the heat down if needed.

Open up the can of tomatoes and add it to the pan, along with the liquid from the tomatoes. Add the sugar. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 10-20 minutes. Depends on how blended you like your sauce. Meanwhile, add thin spaghetti to boiling water and cook until al dente. Drain pasta in collander, reserving about 1/4 cup of the cooking water.

Now cut up your basil. Add pasta, cooking water, and remaining olive oil to sauce in pan and toss to coat. Add salt, pepper to taste. Serve in plate topped with parmesan cheese and basil.

Continue reading “Barilla Thin Spaghetti” …

[ Currently Eating: Not surprisingly, clam chowder ]

Progresso Clam ChowderI went to Boston a few years ago to visit a friend who was just exiting the MIT program there. One of the best things I remember about the city was the food, and that included quite a few seafood joints… some good and some not. There were also a lot of bowls of Clam Chowder to be had there, and I did manage to try the Legal Seafood Clam Chowder which I thought was good though a bit on the salty side.

Not that we have any standards of excellence at Cheap Eats, but it is quite another thing to go from homemade or restaurant Clam Chowder to the kind in a can. This is the subject of today’s Cheap Eats special: Progresso Clam Chowder.

I know a lot of you are going to say you wouldn’t touch canned clam chowder with a 10 foot spoon, but there’s times when you just don’t feel like farking around with a fishmonger who doesn’t know a clam from a ham.

I have always stuck with non-condensed versions for canned chowder… that is soup that you can drink straight out of the can instead of adding bunches of water. One of the problems for me though, is that I think the “salt” taste buds on my tongue are malfunctioning compared to the average American because in nearly every case canned clam chowder straight up is just too powerful for me. It’s also quite thick and viscous and sometimes hard to eat; almost like clam slime instead of soup.

I think most people actually like their clam chowder really thick and while that may be a good thing in homemade soup, for the canned variety I think they just add a whole mess of thickener starch to it. It’s gloppy like corn starch. I’m not even sure what that is, nor do I care to know!

So, I always add a bit of water to the mix. About 1/8 to 1/2 a can will do ya good. And this is keeping in the spirit of Cheap Eats because you’ve just created more food out of thin air by just adding some water.

Continue reading “Progresso Clam Chowder” …

[ Currently Eating: Potato Salad Sandwich ]

Albertson's Vanilla SodaSorry, I haven’t been updating lately with yummy Cheap Eats posts. I also haven’t had as much time to cook lately which is why you haven’t seen any “recipes” for awhile. And it’s a lot quicker to put together a Cheap Eats product review than a Cheap Eats recipe…

I’ve actually temporarily run out of interesting cheap food products to review, but here is one that I’ve kept on the back burner for awhile. You might remember in the Generic Soda post I had actually given Albertson’s Black Cherry Soda an OK mark of 5/10. Well, here is it’s brother: Albertson’s Vanilla Soda and unfortunately it didn’t do as well.

Carbonation of the generic soda was a problem with the Generic Black Cherry soda… open it and re-cap it for a day, and you lost all the fizz! The same is true with this Vanilla Soda. But whereas the black cherry soda at least had an unusual, albeit artificial flavor, the vanilla soda tasted just plain awful.

Continue reading “Albertson’s Vanilla Soda” …

[ Currently Eating: Much Needed Nectarine ]

Lobster Festival

Why hello there… we haven’t visited the infamous Cheap Eats Hall of Shame lately, thought I’ve been meaning to put a few entries in. A friend sent me a bunch of food links the other day in L.A. (including the local Tofu Festival in J-town). I took one look at the link for the Port of Los Angeles Lobster Festival and knew I had a good candidate for the Hall of Shame.

First off, I’ll have you know that when I can afford it (read: when it is provided for free through hook or crook or maybe scavenging off an unsuspecting yuppie’s plate) I really do like lobster. I’m very partial to it, especially when it is stir fried with massive quantities of garlic, onions, scallions at any of the multitudes of Chinese restaurants around me. And actually, when a restaurant is having a promotion or sale, it can be phenomenally cheap. Same with crab, shrimp, fish, squid or any number of other ocean creepy crawlies. Yum.

Lobster FestivalBut I have to give “un-props” to whoever came up with this Lobster Festival. First, “Port of Los Angeles”? What a joke. They must mean “Ecologically Unfriendly Ocean Dump of Los Angeles”. Actually, I know they mean San Pedro, but still. I live here, so I’ve seen the beach closures and know about the high PCB and heavy metals levels in locally caught fish. This is just some spinster trying to put a shiny happy face on L.A. in order to lift a couple more dollars off the Beverly Hillites.

Second, you will note that not only do the lobsters NOT come from the Port of Los Angeles, but they go to great pains to advertise that “The Port of Los Angeles Lobster Festival proudly serves only lobsters from the Great State of Maine.” In other words, these are ALL Maine Lobsters. This is just weird… I mean I totally understand the tradition of lobster festivals from the New England area because that’s where the durned lobsters come from right? So why does L.A. feel the need to make their OWN lobster festival that features lobster caught on the other side of the continent? They actually have to ship that 12 tons of Maine lobster here.

Continue reading “L.A. Lobster Festival” …

[ Currently Eating: Leftover El Pollo Loco ]

Dryer's Ice CreamWell, not only did Dryer’s Ice Cream completely smoke all the competition in our latest food poll, but I inadvertantly chose Haagen Dazs Ice Cream as a competitor. When, in fact, according to the DryersInc site, they also own Haagen Dazs as well as Nestle Ice Cream. Hello, monopoly!

Ice Cream Poll

I DID know that the popular Edy’s brand of ice cream is one and the same as Dryer’s Ice Cream. The history of why some people know it as Edy’s and others as Dryer’s is apparently because the original partnership was formed between William Dreyer who made frozen desserts and Joseph Edy who was a candy maker. Nearly 20 years later, in 1947, they agreed to dissolve the partnership, whereby Dreyer retired and handed the biz over to his son while Edy went back to making candy. Dreyers’ son later sold the company and because many people on the east coast still knew the brand as Edy’s, the new owners decided to stick with that same name everywhere east of the Rockies.

Dryer's Ice CreamIn any case, I was pretty sure that Dryer’s would win and I knew that not enough people cared or knew about the “au naturale”allure of Breyer’s Ice Cream (my personal favorite, though why did they choose a name so similar to Dreyer’s??). But I actually thought that Ben & Jerry’s wacky boutique ice cream flavors might be a dark horse candidate. After all they are always mentioned on the Food Network and nearly everyone knows about them. They came close, but no golden ice cream spoon for them.

Thinking about it, I probably should have done popsicles or ice cream bars, instead of just ice cream because there’s more name and shape recognition with them. With ice cream, once it’s out of the tub and into your bowl, there’s nothing (besides taste/texture) to tell you one company’s vanilla from another. But for popsicles and ice cream bars, it’s like, what would YOU do for a Klondike bar…

I got the idea for the new poll because I’ve been watching an excess of Food Network lately. So, basically I wanted to find out who your favorite food network star was. Or if not, then how about who is the least annoying…

[ Currently Eating: Vietnamese "Mystery Meat" Sandwich ]

Anderson Bavarian Dutch Style PretzelsFor the longest time, I was completely in the dark regarding a saying that I used to hear workmates repeat once in awhile: “These Pretzels are making me thirsty”. Now that I’m finally clued into where it came from (George Constanza Kramer), well Seinfeld is of course history. Late as ever…

But anyhow, it’s because of that episode that I bring to you a review of these Anderson Bavarian Dutch Style Pretzels that we purchased from the 99 cent store. I don’t know the exact procedure that goes into making these pretzel knots but it doesn’t seem like rocket science. It’s just a cracker shaped like a twist with a toasted coating and some coarse salt sprinkled on it right?

This box is actually quite large, almost a foot long, half a foot wide and 3 inches high. I guess they need to make it so big because if you’ve ever had these types of pretzels before you know that they take up a lot of room. And you can’t squash them in there or else they’ll break easily.

I’ve had many other types of pretzels before, ranging from Frito-Lay’s Rold Gold to Snyder’s of Hanover which a lot of people say are the Rolls Royce of pretzels. I was actually quite surprised that these cheapo Anderson pretzels were mostly whole and unbroken. I was just expecting a box of smashed bits. Maybe because they are so thick that they are difficult to break.

Continue reading “Bavarian Pretzels” …



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