Cheap Eats at Bloglander

Your guide to eating cheap including tips, recipes and techniques

Archive for November, 2008

11/25/08 | Beanee Weenee

[ Currently Eating: Leftover Chicken Tikka Masala ]

BEANIE FARKING WEENEE - Cheap Eats at Bloglander

Deep in a lead-shielded, missile-proof bunker 1000 feet underground in Scuttlefishville, AZ:

“I suppose you’re wondering why I’ve gathered you here today. We’re ramping up to Defcon 3.14159 in just a few minutes. Outgoing ICBM missile launches have been detected all over the world. We’re in for multiple strikes in all the major cities. Boom. It’s not going to be pretty. We’ll be down here safeguarding the nation’s secrets for at least the next 10 years or so.”

“Lieutenant Vonnegut, give me a status report on our basic neccesities.”

“Sir, all the necessary supplies and rations are in place for the coming siege. We should be able to survive down here for over 20 years. For consumibles, we have 1,580,000 cans of Spam, 1,650,000 cans of Corn Niblets, 130,000 boxes of Twinkies, 730,000 cans Vienna Sausages, 950,000 cans of Chef Boyardi, 740,000 cans of Progresso Soup, 55,000 packs of Lime Jello, 4,230,000 bottles of Gatorade, 1,200,000 cans of Refried Beans and 653 cans of Beanee Weenee.

“Very good, Lieutenant. Hand me one of those cans of Beanee Weenee. And a spoon. Let’s start this war off right.”

And so it goes… and so on.

OK, I originally was going to write a whole fricking post-apocolyptic Vonnegut-ish play in 3 acts for this review which would star the aforementioned Beanee Weenee falling into enemy hands and causing a collapse of the economy which was based in Beanee Weenee Bucks. It would end with a time travelling anthropomorphic Steller Sea Lion who would arrive with a cache of the beans to save the day.

But lucky for you, I’ve got writer’s block this afternoon.

Truthfully, Beanee Weenee has always been a sort of mythological canned food for me. I just knew the name and hadn’t even looked for it in the supermarket. I had a feeling it was one of those “legendary” rural foods that no one talks about but everyone has in their cupboard. Like those Bryan Tamales. I’m just way to lazy to research it more – so please tell me if indeed it is some sort of famous delicacy that’s been around for years and years.

Anyhow, I came across some cans at the Dollar Store, and I just couldn’t pass it up. The first thing I need to say about Beanee Weenee is that they have spelled it wrong. Oh yes, I do know a potatoe from a potato. Or, I often fool myself into thinking that I do. I keep wanting to write Beanie Weanie or Beanie Wienie.

The second thing I need to say is that this is one of those “eat cold or hot” deals. I’m not sure why you would eat it cold, unless you were stuck 1000 feet underground in a lead shielded bunker like the protagonist in my aborted narrative above. But hey, wouldn’t they have a microwave or stove down there?

There was no way I was going to scarf this can of pork and beans cold. I popped the top (bonus “emergency food” points for not requiring a can opener) and poured the pitiful repast into a little pot with a lid. It warmed up quickly. I then poured it into a bowl and consumed it in 5 minutes. Man, the things I do for Cheap Eats.

BEANIE FARKING WEENEE - Cheap Eats at Bloglander

Continue reading “Beanee Weenee” …

11/21/08 | More Bread

[ Currently Eating: Some Tea ]

More Bread - Cheap Eats at Bloglander

Dang, I’m glad it’s Friday. Well, ever since I had a major FAIL while breadmaking, I vowed to regroup and try out some different techniques. You see, I’m not a baker. But I always wanted to make bread.

Cue the No Knead Bread music please.

Yeah, I’m not even going to try and convince you. Look at the picture. I couldn’t fricken believe it.

It really does work. I’m going to try work up a full article over on Cheaplander about the process soon. I’ve also “graduated” to trying to make homemade yeast water as well, and incorporating it into the no-knead recipe. A little scary, but the science experiments are still thriving in their respective mason jars after a few weeks.

For now, here is the article where a lot of the publicity for no-knead bread came from. I pretty much followed it exactly. (By the way, that link probably won’t work – NY Times is stupid like that. However, just do a search for “no knead bread” and it’ll come up.)

See you all next week.

11/20/08 | Food Banks Tank?

[ Currently Eating: Coffee With Shot of Hazelnut Syrup ]

Food Bank LA - Cheap Eats at Bloglander

OK, this is not the sort of news I can make too many jokes about. So I’ll refrain. Apparently, due to the crazy Eeekconomy, so many folks are requiring emergency meals from food banks that they are seeing shortages in what they’re able to provide.

For instance, at the LA Food Bank, they have seen an increase of more than a third in food delivered to the many chartiable organizations that they service. And because of the terrible economic climate and rising unemployment, donations are not keeping up with the demand. The thought is that it might become so bad in some locations that some sort of national effort might be necessary.

It’s terrible all around, but it’s pretty hard to believe sometimes that there are so many people in this country that aren’t able to get enough to eat every day. As I’ve said previously, over the years, I’ve gotten quite a few emails from people who were seriously, seriously interested in ways to save money on food. One guy actually wanted to know how to calculate the number of calories per day that he would need to survive on, because he couldn’t afford to buy food.

So yeah, I feel a little guilty writing frivolous articles when it’s a matter of survival for some people. I got most of those letters back in 2004-2005 when the economy was much healthier. I can only imagine the increase in the number of folks today to who this applies.

Source: Lisa Baertlein for Reuters, Shop Talk

11/18/08 | Shallots

[ Currently Eating: Smart Ones Breakfast Quesadilla ]

Shallots on Cheap Eats at Bloglander

Exsqueeze me, I have a little tear in my eye…

Ah, that’s better. You see – I was chopping up a few of my fave little oniony friends. I’m talking Shallots.

These have been a favorite over here at Cheap Eats HQ, and not only because Mr. A. Bourdain recommended them in his book. Nor was it the fact that a Mr. A Brown devoted a whole show to them – although it was nice to see them featured.

Shallots are sort of a mystery to most people. They certainly were to me until a few years ago. I didn’t understand why anyone wouldn’t just keep either brown onions or garlic on hand for the same effect. Then I discovered that they really “kicked it up a notch” (I can steal Emeril‘s mojo since he’s no longer doing his show) on gravy.

And that’s actually the reason why I decided to make a post about it now – just in time for Thanksgiving. Minced and sauteed along with the fat/drippings before putting in the flour, they make a really good turkey gravy taste great. I mean, you can easily substitute minced brown onions for gravy, and I often do. But shallots seem to give it a little extra something.

For more information on exactly what a shallot is, you should read the Wikipedia article. I don’t really care what family or species of Allium plant they are – I just know that they are nice to have around. They look a little like oversized garlic cloves with purple skins. The smell and taste is pretty close to right in the middle between onions and garlic. And, oh yes, their fumes will turn you into a crybaby (try and chill them before mincing, that helps).

One of nice things about shallots is that they can keep for a rather long period of time without going bad. I usually store them outside in the kitchen for a few weeks, and then toss them in the bottom shelf of the fridge afterwards for the long haul. This is great for Cheap Eaters who try to have a good amount of “staple” type foods that don’t go bad so fast. I have kept them up to at least a month with no ill effects. Longer than that, and I started to see deterioration and/or the growth of shoots or mold.

Shallots on Cheap Eats at Bloglander

Peeling a shallot can be a bit tricky. The skin is papery and a bit thinner than a normal onion. If it isn’t loose and easy to peel, it can be tough to get off. Sometimes I whack it with a knife in the manner you would garlic – that’s fine if you’re going to mince them anyhow. Also, cutting off the ends of each clove may make them easier to peel. Inevitably, I have a few where I actually peel off the outer layer of shallot on accident along with the skin. I was wondering – anyone have any tips on peeling these buggers?

Shallots can be a bit on the pricier side compared to garlic and onions. I often get them for cheaper in a bulk bag at ethnic markets. However, because you only need to use a small amount (usually 1 or 2 shallots is plenty for a recipe) and because of their longevity in storage, I’m inclined to consider them cheaper eats than many other types of vegetables.

As I said before, my primary use for them is in gravy. One other great idea is to introduce a little bit in any recipe that calls for garlic and onions. That way, you get what I like to call a “triple threat of oniony goodness“. I’ve used that technique in spaghetti sauce and chili beans. I put 1-2 shallot cloves minced along with the garlic and onions. Maybe it’s all the fumes from the oniony goodness getting to my brain, but it seems like the flavor palette expands to encompass a wider array of taste structures. Haha, that’s so rich. I should write a book.

Another way to use it is in a haricot verts (green beans) type of dish with tomatoes. I know a lot of people also deep-fry slices, similar to french-fried onions, and use it as a topping for things like soup. I haven’t seem them used raw in salsa yet, but I’ve wondered if they’d work there.

As always, I’m looking to expand my shallotty ways. I’d like to know if you have any great uses for them – please comment below if so.

[ Currently Eating: Peppermint Tea And Lots Of It ]

Banquet AGAIN on Cheap Eats at Bloglander

Hello there, from the trenches of budget frozen dinner meal warfare. I’ve sort of attempted to stay away from the Banquet frozen dinners for the past couple years.

One reason is that whenever I write a review on one of their meals, inevitably I get bombarded with 10 emails from disgruntled frozen dinner consumers who think that WE are the company. Me: “Sorry, I’ve no idea why you ended up with gristle in your Fried Chicken Meal.”

Actually, I love getting contacted by these whiners – it’s just fun to read. However, what the heck do you expect for a frozen dinner under a buck? It’s darn cheap. If it wasn’t for the fact that these Banquet meals aren’t exactly the best things to eat (an understatement, I believe), I would be stocking up my freezer with them.

But a few months back they were on sale for 88 cents. So I couldn’t pass getting one for old time’s sake. Because, you know we’ve been reviewing all these budget frozen meals here on Cheap Eats before it was “cool” to talk about. That is, before the Eeekconomy completely tanked. Now, it seems like everyone wants in on the action…

I’ve sorta lost count, but I think I’ve done SEVEN Banquet frozen dinner reviews in the past. So feel free to read Part I: Banquet Chicken Nugget Meal, Part II: Banquet Salisbury Steak Meal, Part III: Banquet Fried Chicken Meal Part IV: Banquet Pepperoni Pizza Meal Part V: Banquet Fish Stick Meal, Part VI: Banquet Enchilada Combo Meal and Part VII: Banquet Chicken Fried Steak Meal.

Whew. And I’m wondering why I finally started to gain weight…

Continue reading “Banquet Swedish Meatballs” …

[ Currently Eating: leftover pseudo-pizza ]

Pizza Crust - Cheap Eats at Bloglander

Hello from Pseudo-Pizza land!

Let me tell you – I’m like very familiar with the Doughboy. I’m like, tight, with the guy. We’re old friends. I go “heehee” if you stick a finger into my lately increasing beer belly fat. Even though I don’t have a poofy hat. Yet.

But actually, I haven’t really had anything from Pillsbury in quite awhile. So I was happy when a whole load of rolled canisters came in for review the other day. I got several varieties of their instant frozen stuff, but I decided to start off with the Pillsbury Thin Crust Pizza Dough.

Pizza Crust - Cheap Eats at Bloglander

I haven’t cracked one of these suckers open in awhile, so I sort of botched opening it up. There’s a tab you pull and it’s supposed to break the seal, allowing you to extract the rolled up dough. For some reason, mine didn’t open so I had to really wrangle it. I would have included a photos of me trying to open it, but you don’t want to see a grown man struggling mightily with a frozen tin can full of dough. I think I need to work out more.

Anyhow, I got the durned thing open and pulled out the dough. I was sort of wondering if it would be very difficult to unroll, but it wasn’t too bad until I got to the end of the roll. It actually wouldn’t unroll at the end without tearing – so I just left it like that, figuring I could just cut it off.

Pillsbury is definitely going for convenience with this Thin Crust Pizza dough. No rolling pin necessary, just lay it out on a cookie sheet, add toppings, and bake at 400 degrees. I haven’t really had too much experience with frozen pizza crust, rollable or not. I’ve often bought Boboli or other pre-baked pseudo-pizza dough circles, but I didn’t really know what to expect with frozen dough.

I heated up the oven, sprayed a cookie sheet with some cooking spray, and laid out the dough. It started to get rather flimsy the moment I got it out flat. They actually say for a crispier crust, you want to pre-bake the dough and THEN put the toppings on. I think if I ever made this again, I’d probably do that. I slathered on about 3/4 cup of spaghetti sauce, some shredded mozzarella cheese and leftover sliced cremini mushrooms. They sent me literature with a whole ton of “suggested” fancy recipes. But I figured I’d make a really basic one to start with.

Continue reading “Pillsbury Frozen Pizza Crust” …



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