Cheap Eats at Bloglander

Your guide to eating cheap including tips, recipes and techniques

Archive for October, 2005

[ Currently Eating: Watery coffee ]

Hefty Serve N Store Party Plates and BowlsRecently, I got a whole load of these Hefty Serve ‘N Store Party Plates and Bowls sent to me for review. Before you say I’ve sold out, let me remind y’all that this is CHEAP Eats. And it doesn’t get much cheaper than FREE. So, I’m definitely not going to look any gift horses (or plates) in the mouth!

The idea for these plates and bowls is a great idea, yet it’s so simple that I can’t believe that anyone hasn’t thought about it until now. Rather than sell plates with covers, they’ve made it so each plate can function BOTH as a plate and a cover. This is accomplished by adding “latches” around the sides of the plate so that when they are pressed together they lock into place. Shades of Lego pieces! From the back of the package:

Only Hefty Serve ‘n Store™ plates and bowls have the unique Interlok™ feature. Just flip a matching plate or bowl over and press the rims together to create a quick covered container. With a multitude of uses, you can keep food fresh before parties. Store leftovers in a snap and create to-go plates for guests. Made from durable plastic, their strong, deep dish design resists spills and the handles make them easy to hold and carry.

For the past eight years or so, I’ve headed over to my parents and in-laws for dinner at least once or twice a week (they are both great cooks). And inevitably, there are leftovers galore to be taken home. That’s one of the prime directives for Cheap Eats: Always Accept Leftovers. Usually, we have to figure out how to pack these dishes to take home and up till now we usually got some paper plates and taped another one on the top as a lid, or covered the plate with saran wrap or foil. Spills were frequent with these makeshift covers, so I think that these Serve ‘N Store plates are going to come in pretty handy.

Hefty Serve N Store Party Plate Filled With RiceThe plates and bowls themselves are the “Party” variety so they are this vibrant red color which I suspect will match your holiday decor nicely. The plastic is fairly hard and it looks like it’s washable to some extent which is good, because having to throw away the plates after using them would be a deal-breaker for me. Besides the dual use as a cover, what I liked about the plates were that they were actually deeper than most disposable plates. So if you put some gravy or cranberry sauce or creamed spinach in them (hello, Thanksgiving leftover fixins) they won’t slop out as much even when not covered.

Both the plates and bowls have these “handles” on the side which are nice for carrying. Although, this could possibly be a storage issue as they jut out about 1/2 inch on either side of the plate.

Hefty Serve N Store Party Plate Over SinkI had a whole battery of tests that I was going to subject these Hefty Serve N Store Plates to. One of them involved getting up on the roof and throwing sealed plates of Thousand Island dressing to the ground to see how they would stand up to being dropped.

But I nixed most of those ideas due to the mess they’d create. Anyhow, their main claim for these guys is for convenience and usability rather than durability (though I can’t count how many times I’ve seen those Hefty Trash Bag commercials that are supposed to be the most durable in the world). But anyway, for my first test I tried filling up a plate with dry rice, locking the top and holding it over the sink and shaking it for a half minute. Pretty good there. I mean, what idiot is going to purposely hold a filled plate like that for longer than a few seconds. I guess I might be surprised.

Next, I took that locked plate of rice and dropped it from about a height of about 3 feet. I figured this is about the distance most people would drop it from. I don’t have a high speed camera or a steady hand, so you’ll have to settle for some before and after shots.

Hefty Serve N Store Party Plate Being Dropped

Note the carefully placed newspaper, in case disaster should strike. Happy to report that I dropped it three times and in both cases the locking mechanism was pretty steady. I also tried dropping it directly on its end and the plate didn’t fare as well, with the rice literally exploding out of the container. But chances are you won’t drop the plate right on it’s end since if you’re holding it vertical like that, you’re already in trouble.

Hefty Serve N Store Party Plate After Being Dropped

Here’s a picture of the plate on the ground after it was dropped, still sealed nicely. One thing to remember is to press down pretty hard along the latches of the plate to make sure ALL of them are closed. One open side will weaken the whole thing and lead to failure. Think of it like your Legos: you wouldn’t stick them together half-assed either right?

Continue reading “Hefty Serve N Store Party Plates” …

10/18/05 | Chinese Hot Sauce

[ Currently Eating: Cheese Bread ]

Huy Fong Sriracha Chinese Hot SauceSome people do like it hot, and that definitely includes me. I feel like I’ve been eating hot sauce, chili sauce, taco sauce, Tabsaco Sauce and spicy salsa since I was born.

Quite often, ethnic foods tend to have quite a kick to them. Sometimes it’s “built into” the food and other times it’s served on the side as is this Chinese Chili Garlic Sauce from Huy Fong foods. These are the same manufacturers of the famous Sriracha Hot Sauce, and seeing as I live in the new Chinatown (not the one near downtown L.A.) near good old M.P., it’s no surprise that Huy Fongs headquarters is based in Rosemead, not far from where I live. Actually, I believe this is originally Vietnamese and not Chinese since a lot of that language is on the packaging (as well as French). Still, nearly every Chinese restaurant carries it. You’ll recognize the bottles of the stuff from the distinctive green cap, although I believe a lot of competitors copy this loook.

I stuck with the blended Sriracha hot sauce for quite awhile as the condiment of choice (I put it on corn on the cob the very first time I ate it, haha) for it’s powerful hot kick and overpowering garlic aroma. I put it on nearly everything. However, recently I’ve gotten into a different variety of their sauce. This one has the actual chili seeds whole in the sauce and is a bit more chunkier as opposed to blended.

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10/11/05 | Pomegranate

[ Currently Eating: Wheat Thins ]

Pomegranate opened upLet’s be clear about the fruit known as the Pomegranate. Even when you get it for free as I did, it can be difficult to justify the effort of “eating” this very messy fruit. Wow, it is probably the messiest fruit I’ve ever eaten.

Pomegranates come from a tree and according to Wikipedia are believed to have come from an area extending from Iran east to northern India and have been actively cultivated around the Mediterranean for a really long time.

From the outside, the pomegranate is pretty unassuming. It sort of looks like a small magenta colored gourd. Inside though, you’ve got all these red seeds that are usually super-sour. The seeds are closely clumped together inside and the bunches are separated by paper thin membrane walls. It’s fairly difficult to actually separate the seeds from the membrane walls because they’re jammed in there so well.

Those tiny pomegranate seeds are what people eat. I’ve heard a lot of people actually eat all of the seed, but I usually don’t. I just chew up the outsides and then spit out the seeds. This is actually a lot of work for very little reward. But one of the most difficult parts is not getting the juice splattered everywhere! Pomegranate juice stains like the dickens, it’s pretty similar to cherry juice. I believe that it stains clothes permanently unless you use some sort of bleach to get it out.

I’m actually not sure how to open up a pomegranate other than inserting a knife and sort of prying it open. The explosion of seeds and juice that this causes is sort of crazy. You definitely don’t want to wear a white shirt when eating pomegranate. Actually, it might be best to eat it while shirtless. =)

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[ Currently Eating: Mongolian Beef Noodles ]

Bread Crumbs In A BowlEven though it’s definitely worthy of a Cheap Eats article, I’ve only lately tried making my own bread crumbs. The main reason is: I am just damn lazy. Which is of course no excuse!

I use a lot of bread crumbs in dishes too, which is even more reason for me to get on the ball with making them. They’re great for topping casseroles, for getting meatloaf texture to be more consistent, and of course for breading foods to be fried, like chicken breast fillets or fish.

The consistency of bread crumbs called for in recipes varies. Sometimes the crumbs are simply pieces of bread roughly torn apart, drizzled with butter and baked in the oven. Other recipes call for extremely fine crumbs, almost like semolina. You can buy a can of fine bread crumbs at the market for fairly cheap, and some even come pre-seasoned. But making your own out of older bread that’s already around is definitely cheaper.

Bread In CuisinartSo back to being lazy… we always have leftover bread (ends and slices) in the fridge. So that’s one part down. The part that always gets me when making homemade bread crumbs is the need for a food processor. Even if you had the time to stand there chopping up bread with double action cleavers, the act of cutting bread squishes it together instead of cutting it clean, making for pretty terrible crumbs. Nope, you’ve pretty much got to break out the Cuisinart.

The chefs on TV are always using food processors, mixers and blenders. I think one of the reasons they’re so enthusiastic about using these “time-saving” devices is because they don’t have to clean out the damn things after using them. It is somewhat of a pain to break out the food processor just for a little job and then have to clean the blade, cover and mixer bowl.

Continue reading “Homemade Bread Crumbs” …



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