Cheap Eats at Bloglander

Your guide to eating cheap including tips, recipes and techniques

Archive for September, 2007

9/28/07 | Mooncakes

[ Currently Eating: Grilled Miso Salmon ]

Cheap Eats - Pineapple Moon Cake

Whee… some extra Cheap Eats coverage before you head off into the weekend. This is a Pineapple Moon Cake from this past Tuesday’s Moon Cake Festival (or Lantern Festival, or Mid-Autumnal Festival) which occurs near the Autumn Equinox.

The mooncakes, which have a thin outer pastry-type crust or wrapping, also come with a variety of different ingredients including lotus seed, duck egg, mung bean, red bean, and dates. They are often pretty sweet (I haven’t really tried the savory versions yet), so I usually cut it up into quarters (or eighths!) and just eat one or two pieces.

Cheap Eats - Pineapple Moon Cake

One thing – these cakes are NOT Cheap Eats. They can be quite expensive, depending on the quality. I got this one from my mother-in-law – we usually don’t buy the boxes of cakes that they sell.

[ Currently Eating: Salmon, Ravioli ]

Cheap Eats - Cooking Your Own Dinner PollWell lookie what we have here… I’m actually talking about The Cheap Eats Poll. Take a guess when was the last time this was changed out. That’s right – more than ONE YEAR ago. As such, the poll has had time to garner a huge number of votes (3095). Well, that’s huge for my site anyhow.

Several people had asked when I was going to change this darn thing out, and I just kept putting it off over and over again until it became almost a joke. But today, I decided to take a short break from food reviews to force myself to do it.

I have to say I’m pretty surprised with the results. According to the poll, today’s cooks are much more resourceful than I had thought. There’s hope for us after all. Maybe.

I had thought there was no way that the majority of people who answered would have cooked more than 2-3 times a week. Instead, nearly half the people (46%, 1429 votes) actually said that they cook dinner EVERY DAY. This is an astounding number to me, when you consider how busy modern workers today are and how easy it is to just pick up food on the way home. Sure, if this was the 60s I wouldn’t be surprised.

I have to admit myself that we fall into the category of only cooking dinner 2-3 times a week – there were 1211 other people who also responded this way, which is about 39%. If you add up the two categories, you come out with 85% of the people responding to the poll cooking dinner more two or more times a week. That’s awesome. Of course, you might also say that the people who visit my site, being the saavy Cheap Eaters that they are, would be more likely to cook their own food. I think there might be some truth to that.

In any case, it’s great: I keep saying it, but cooking your own meals instead of eating out is probably one of the greatest ways to save money on the food budget. If I get around to the Manifesto (and you know I won’t) then that’s probably rule #2 or 3.

The “once-a-week” chefs came out around 9% (265 votes). Hey, cooking once a week is better than none at all. Only six percent (190 votes) said they eat out all the time. I seriously thought there would be many more votes for those two categories.

At this point, I have to mention something nearly as important as cooking your own food: just because you don’t cook it yourself doesn’t mean that it’s eating out. My advice: creatively leech off of mom’s (or dad’s) home cooking all you can. That is, if you and the folks get along and they live relatively close. Hey, if you feel guilty about it, do the dishes! Or contribute to the cost of the food bill.

Ok, so there is another poll up now. I didn’t have much time to think about the theme for this one, so it’s pretty simple… what’s your favorite cheap eats food staple? I can’t promise that this one won’t be up for a long time like the other one was, but I’ll try to make sure it doesn’t stay up for a year at least!

9/18/07 | Go-Gurt Fizzix

[ Currently Eating: Roast Beef and Swiss Sandwich ]

Cheap Eats eats Fizzix GoGurt from Yoplait

Hello Carbonated Yogurt.

You read that right: carbonated yogurt tubes appeared on my doorstep the other day. Boxed, of course. Wow. I guess adding carbonation to candy, gum and other kid foods isn’t anything new (Pop-Rocks were pretty neat when they were first released when I was a kid).

Still, I never really thought they would seriously try out carbonation in yogurt. Yoplait seems to think that kids will dig it. Interestingly, I was told that the other demographic this is being marketed to is “undergraduate males on tight food budgets.” Why am I not surprised?

Cheap Eats eats Fizzix GoGurt from Yoplait

First, I have to admit that I’m a covert virgin. Excuse me, I mean a go-gurt virgin. I’ve never found the need to eat yogurt out of a tube – I’m not orbiting earth after all. Still, I have to admit that I was intrigued with the idea of it being carbonated. The product is called Go-Gurt Fizzix and is made by Yoplait, and comes in boxes of eight 2 1/4 ounce individual tubes. They’re currently selling six flavors – boxes have two flavors each. Mine was Wild Cherry Zing and Strawberry Lemonade Jolt. They also have Blue Raspberry Rage / Strawberry Watermelon Rush and Triple Berry Fusion / Fruit Punch Charge. I sort of wished I got the blue raspberry flavor – a nice Reptilian Tongue is such a blast to stick out at friends.

The tubes are skinny plastic with a riptop so that you can easily suck out the innards. I haven’t had food in a tube like this in awhile, if you don’t count popsicles. Regarding popsicle tubes – I have some really good memories of eating Otter Pops when I was a kid. And as for the most interesting tubed food I’ve had: there’s this Cheese Kamaboko (fishcake) in a tube that I had 7 years ago. Enough said.

Cheap Eats eats Fizzix GoGurt from Yoplait

Strawberry Lemonade Jolt was the first one I tried out. I figured that the yogurt itself would pretty much taste like normal Yoplait, but I seriously didn’t know what to expect as far as the carbonation went. I was a little bit disappointed at how mild the “jolt” was. I mean, I wasn’t expecting it to be like soda but I thought it would tingle a lot more. The fizz in the yogurt is a bit like the low level fizz you get from the carbonation in a drink like Orangina. To be fair, it’s called “fizzy” yogurt which to me seems to imply a weaker amount of carbonation.

The carbonation does seem to stay around for quite awhile, however. It was still there in pretty much the same strength after I got through taking the pics. You’re supposed to eat this right out of the tube, but I wanted to show the yogurt itself so I scooped it out. Turns out the strawberry lemonade flavor is pretty good. Nothing to write home about, though. Average yogurt, a bit on the sweet side.

Cheap Eats eats Fizzix GoGurt from Yoplait

The Wild Cherry Zing will probably be a flavor you want to avoid if you don’t like that artificial cherry taste. It’s very strong in this Fizzix yogurt, but I actually am OK with artificial cherry flavoring so it didn’t bother me.

For some reason, the carbonation seemed to “feel” stronger in the Cherry flavor. I ended up eating several of each and noticed that each time the Cherry Zing seemd more zingy. One thing about the Go-Gurt is that they are quite small (although perfect for lunchtime) so I was easily able to eat 2 or 3 of them without trouble.

Ok, so I wasn’t all that jazzed up about this product beyond its novelty, and even a little disappointed with the carbonation. However, I suspect that the miniscule carbonation will provide that “extra something” which might convince an otherwise yogurt-adverse kid to eat it. The manufacturer takes great pains to point out that Fizzix has the “same great nutrition as Yoplait Go-Gurt.” So I guess if I was getting it for kids, and they were both the same price (need to check on that) then I’d choose the Fizzix over normal Go-Gurt. The price isn’t horrible for a kids novelty item, but normal yogurt would be much cheaper to get.

I guess that would be the end of this review, except that I decided to try and freeze the Fizzix just to see what would happen. The tubes swelled up and expanded, but didn’t break (at least the 3 that I put in the freezer did not explode). I was pleasantly surprised with the frozen yogurt treat that emerged. The carbonation seems to become even more muted, but as a snack it tasted much better this way.

I guess you could get a tub of yogurt and freeze it yourself (or just buy frozen yogurt), but the fact that these were already packaged in a tube made it very convenient. Because it’s yogurt and not completely liquid, it’s a bit more difficult to “push-up”. The frozen yogurt tends to stick to the plastic. Still, I gave the frozen version a bit higher score.

Price: Free (MSRP: $2.50 for 8 2.25 oz)
Found At: Sent in for review
Cheap Eats Score: 4/10 (5/10 frozen)

[ Currently Eating: Carbonated Yogurt In A Tube ]

Some kind of Battered Fish - Cheap Eats

Hello. Ugh, shoulder and back issues again. Despite that, I still decided to try and create a new header for Cheap Eats. See above. Wonderful. Except I foolishly deleted the original photoshop file which necessitated recreating the whole darn thing which did take a toll on my shoulder (also, left-handed mousing for graphics works at the speed of sloth – unless you’re left-handed).

Because of that, pics are all you get again today. Hello, what have we here – it’s homemade “beer” batter fried fish. Actually, I made this so long ago (on desperate days like this I just go through the camera for old pics of food that haven’t been posted yet), that I’ve since forgotten if I actually did use beer in the batter. It might have just been some sort of pancake-type batter instead, perhaps with leftover buttermilk.

In any case, this is much different than the usual flour, egg-wash, panko method that I grew up with. It came out OK – this was my first try at it. I think the type of fish I used was some sort of faux sole. Let’s not get into what I mean by faux sole – but it was cheap. I was pretty surprised how nice the coating turned out, though it looks awfully orange in the photos. I had it with a side of quick-cook couscous. Not a bad lunch, although veggie-less.

Battered Fish - Cheap Eats

[ Currently Eating: Homemade Mac Salad ]

Penne Pasta - Cheap Eats at Bloglander

Man. That was a seriously bad heat wave we had here in Southern California over the holiday weekend. Without the benefits of central air, we were forced to hole up in one room with the air conditioner on. It didn’t help much that our internet connection was spotty, so there was nothing to do but watch TV.

I’ve been meaning to get another 3 Dollars or Less recipe up. I’m going to admit that you can subtract ingredients easily to get this under the magic limit. I went over the 3 dollar limit, but I’m sure others are able to make it even cheaper so I’m still going to keep this recipe in that category. This is a recipe for the ubiquitous and easy Penne Pasta Casserole. Basically, add spaghetti sauce to cooked noodles in a baking dish, top with cheese and bake it in the oven.

Penne Pasta Casserole

1 26oz can spaghetti sauce (Hunt’s, etc.) — $1.00
1/2 med. yellow onion — $0.20
1 tbsp e.v. olive oil — $0.05
2-3 cloves minced garlic — $0.07
1/2 box dry penne or other pasta– $0.50
1/2 cup basil leaves, chopped — $0.20
1 cup grated cheddar — $0.40
1/3 lb ground beef or italian sausage – $1.00
salt, pepper, sugar — negligible

Total: $3.42

Get a pot of salted water going. Over low heat in a large skillet, add some olive oil, onion, garlic and a pinch of salt and sweat / simmer that until translucent (you can keep adding some water to prevent it from drying out). Remove to a plate. Add the ground beef and/or italian sausage (casing removed) and brown that. Drain it, return to pan with onion mixture. Add spaghetti sauce, and cook on low stirring occasionally for about 10-15 min. Add chopped basil (and any other herbs or veggies at this point). You may want to alter the flavor with salt, pepper and sugar depending on your spaghetti sauce.

When water boils, add the penne and UNDERCOOK it. How much depends on you and your oven. I just know you don’t need to cook it all the way because it’s going in the oven. When done to your liking, drain pasta and rinse it in cold water, if you like. I know they say not to rinse it, but because it’s a casserole I feel the noodles benefit a bit from a dunk.

Combine spaghetti sauce mixture and noodles together in the pot. In a shallow baking dish (flatter, shallower allows for more cheese browning area – if you like that.) Top with cheese, bake at 350F for about 30-45 minutes. You might want to cover lightly with aluminum foil until the last 10 minutes. You can also blast it in the broiler if you like the top extra crunchy.

Continue reading “Penne Pasta Casserole” …



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