Cheap Eats at Bloglander

Your guide to eating cheap including tips, recipes and techniques

Archive for February, 2007

2/27/07 | Asian Vegetables

[ Currently Eating: Toast ]

Cheap Eats - Yu Choy / Yao Choy

You might have noticed a “disturbing trend” in the last post and this one – is Cheap Eats going to turn into some kind of HEALTHY blog? Where’s all the chips, dips, chains and Banquet Dinners by gum? I want my Artificially Processed Food Product Review!

The truth is that while I’ll always feature the “fun” product stuff, lately I’ve been trying to eat healthier and cook more often. (**Everyone roll eyes** – like we couldn’t see it catching up with you) That might be at odds w/ the overall mission of the blog – but then again, this isn’t a magazine. And truth be told some of the cheapest foods can be healthy, or at least I’m trying to convince myself of that.

(By the way, I’ve learned they took the Trans Fat out of Girl Scout Cookies recently – so now you can eat all the boxes you want…)

Anyhow, I’ll try to keep it interesting no matter what the subject material and still throw in junk food reviews every so often. Uh, so you’re not tempted to turn me off and go and watch the latest Lowest Common Denominator chump (or chumpette) on American Idol. But the meals of hot dogs and frozen salisbury steak every night are probably over..

Like the versatile potato, you can get a lot of mileage out of Asian Vegetables. I’m calling them asian vegetables even though I think most of them may actually have English names… but where I live they’re sold at the Chinese market and are called by their Chinese names.

If you happen to live near an Asian specialty market, there are a ton that you can try out at pretty spectacularly cheap prices. They work pretty well in stir frys or steamed/boiled – like you would do broccoli or spinach. The ones that I’ve had most commonly (and the spelling on these vary widely, I’m not Chinese so feel free to correct it) in restaurants and at home are Bok Choy, On Choy, Gai Lan, Napa cabbage and Yu Choy.

One of my favorite things lately is to heat up some main dish restaurant leftovers from the previous night and then steam or stir fry a bunch of Yu Choy. I think this has various spellings as well including “Yao Choy” and “Yu Choi” (and maybe also known as “green Choy Sum”?). And actually, I believe it’s a variety of the Edible Rape vegetable (a super unfortunate name for a veggie if there ever was one).

Cheap Eats - Yu Choy / Yao Choy

Continue reading “Asian Vegetables” …

2/22/07 | Potatoes

[ Currently Eating: Ice Breakers Sours ]

Potato on Cheap EatsOh wonderful Potato, how do I love thee let me count the Ways. And so on and so forth.

Seriously, though. Here on Thee Cheap Eats Channel you might think we’re more likely to talk about Potato CHIPS rather than potatoes. To be sure, those Lays may be way sexier and crunchier. But it’s difficult to beat the simple potato in terms of cooking versatility and longevity in the cupboard.

I had actually planned a big potato extravaganza entry, partly at the urging of several readers who wrote in to complain that their favorite starchy tuber was absent from the Cheap Eats listings. It would have involved a hot potato contest and people dressed up as Mr. Potato Head. But I got sidetracked by all the frozen dinners and free food items winging their way to our house recently.

Actually, very early on I DID mention a booklet I picked up called 250 Ways Of Serving Potatoes. So it’s not like we’re ignoring them completely.

I happen to be a big potato guy, er, no I don’t mean a couch potato. I mean I really like potatoes and will probably choose them over carrots any day (this makes things very easy at our house because my wife likes the carrots. No fights over veggies = a happy meal. No, not the McDonald’s kind!). I like them baked, twice-baked, mashed, smashed, fried, boiled, stuffed, scalloped, as potato salad, and in soup.

By the way, I was seriously considering a wholesale misspelling of the word “potatoe” as in the Dan Quayle lexicon just to see how many schoolkids would write in to correct me.

So, lately I’ve been trying to get away from Fried Potatoes and have discovered that baking them in the microwave is quite relaxing. By relaxing, I mean that you can just wash and scrub up a potato, forkerize it liberally and microwave it on the “potato” setting. No brain cells required, and it’s very quick. And probably better for you.

The first time I did this I was pretty surprised how well it turned out. I expected the potato to be sorta hard on the inside, but forking the hell out of it seems to help quite a bit. I don’t know how you like your baked potato but I subscribe to the “more cheese please” school of potato kung fu.

Potato with Cheese on Cheap Eats

Continue reading “Potatoes” …

[ Currently Eating: Lasagna, Green Beans and Rice ]

Cheap Eats - IHOP Free PancakesGoodness. Lately, there seems to be less hours in the day than there are hairs on Britney Spears head. Ahh… sorry, I just had to say it since everyone else is. Anyhow, what I mean is that due to time constraints and blah, blah, blah, I’ve missed or nearly missed any number of free food days here at Cheap Eats, the latest one being tomorrow (or probably today by the time you read this).

IHOP is celebrating National Pancake Day by handing out free short stacks of their pancakes. It’s only good ONE day, Feb. 20 , 2007 and you have to order up from between 7am and 10pm. One stack per visitor of course.

I know. It’s just a stack of pancakes, and a short one at that. They’ve helpfully approximated that you will receive 3 pancakes in your stack. But free is free, right? Here’s the thing though: you have to eat in, and when you order it I’m guessing they’re probably going to ask you to make a donation to support local children’s hospitals or other local charities. Let me see, here I am sitting in nice cozy IHOP eating free pancakes – do you think I’m going to be able to look them in the eye and say no to a donation like that? You’d have to be pretty heartless – or pretty poor.

Don’t get me wrong – of course it’s for a worthy cause. And probably tax deductible (?) But the topic here is Cheap Eats and if a short stack of pancakes is going to cost me $25 then you can count me out. I’d just as soon make a normal donation without having to involve a multi baggillion dollar company like IHOP, thank you very much.

Hm… this post is taking on the tone of a Hall Of Shame entry… I’d better run off to the kitchen and eat some leftover Chinese New Year’s tea eggs in order to un-grumblyize. If you do end up going down to IHOP for Pancake Day, let me know how it goes.

2/13/07 | Cupcake Landscape

[ Currently Eating: Swirly Bread-Thing ]

Cheap Eats - Cupcakes!

I’m going to cheat a bit this week. Instead of posting my own leftovers, here’s a picture of my wife’s baking exploits last month. Occasionally, we get in the mood for something like these homemade cupcakes and in these cases I have to look to her to provide the expertise since I’m really no baker. I know you are saying I’m lucky and it’s very true.

Cheap Eats - Cupcakes! 2

I believe that these were loosely based on a Cook’s Illustrated recipe. So do they qualify as Cheap Eats? Probably, even though you can buy easily buy fresh cupcakes in the prepared food sections of supermarkets for fairly cheap. Nothing beats homemade, though.

Cheap Eats - Cupcakes! 3

Apparently, it is mucho important to use “Cake Flour” instead of regular flour in order to get the correct texture which is pretty delicate. The icing was actually supposed to be Coffee Buttercream but there was no instant coffee so some leftover Chocolate Hazelnut hot cocoa mix from Ghirardelli’s was pressed into service. Delicious!

And yes, I did eat some as leftovers – for breakfast the next day.

2/6/07 | Bryan Tamales

[ Currently Eating: Leftover Curry ]

Cheap Eats - Bryan Tamales!ADDED: 7/29/07 – It’s come to my attention that some products with the “Bryan” name are being recalled. I never heard anything about it until a few days ago, and don’t have any information about it, but here is the link to the FDA site. Bryan’s Tamales do not seem to be on the list, but their Chili is.

All right, I have to admit that I’m one of those narcissistic people who can’t resist the allure of seeing their name on products. Remember those “mini license plates” that they sell at airports and other places? Yes, I bought one. I get a special thrill whenever I also pass by a dry cleaners called Bryan’s Cleaners. Yep, guilty. And lame.

But I guess if your name happens to be Carl or Sara Lee or Marie Callender it’s not going to be such a big deal. And I think part of the thrill is that the spelling of my name is maybe not as common so I don’t see it in print as often – I’ve all but accepted having friends (some who I’ve known for something like TEN YEARS) write my name with an “I”.

So I just had to pick up this can of Bryan Tamales, if only for the novelty. According to the can, I am apparently“THE FLAVOR OF THE SOUTH”. Woot.

I almost wasn’t expecting to eat the contents of this can because I figured it must be pretty awful – somewhere below the quality of Chef Boyardee, just above the quality of pet food. You get the picture.

Cheap Eats - Bryan Tamales!

Interestingly, the instructions on the back of the can call for placing the tamales in the oven topped with a FULL can of Bryan’s Chili (note to self: look for my chili next time I’m at Big Lots) and then topping with sour cream, onions and cheese.

Well hell… of course it’s going to taste good if you put all that on it. I think that must be Corollary 4.2.2 of the Cheap Eats Manifesto – Everything Tastes Better With Chili Or Cheese On It. No, I decided to cook them up au naturale.

Continue reading “Bryan Tamales” …



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