Cheap Eats at Bloglander

Your guide to eating cheap including tips, recipes and techniques

Archives for Cheap Eats Recipes

[ Currently Eating: Rad Potato Salad ]

Here is a confession.

I sometimes enjoy goopy, gloppy sauce on food. We’re talking fake Chinese food gravy (yes, it IS fake Mr. Hakujin), Cheeze wizgoop, and even the slimy, slurmy goodness of okra and natto.

I have had people tell me they don’t like goopy food because it reminds them of… of, er, uh, you know.

My comeback (pun most definitely intended) is, how do you know what “er, uh, you know” tastes like?

LOL. Here’s to egg on your face. And other stuff.

So, to change beers, I mean gears – I’ve been experimenting with homemade teriyaki sauce lately. That’s the gloopy goopy, soy sauce, sugar and cornstarch sauce that they dump on forlorn brined chicken breasts at your local fake Asian restaurant. Choppity chop suey!

I’ve had it in restaurants where it’s almost like a paste, a shoe-sucking gloopy mess, and I’ve had it where it’s so runny that it runs off the plate like Runny Poo. HEE! Poo, poo, poo, runny poo. Since no one’s listening, what a relief it is to be able to write anything without consequences. POO! Poo birds that go poo-tweet, just like Kurt Vonnegut wrote! Bridge over Troubled Waters of Poo, sung by Simon and Garfunkelpoo. Ancient mummified Poo, discovered by a Poo archaeologist. Friendly Furby poo, rare and about to become valuable on Ebay! Lady Gaga’s poo extruded in a spiral and…

[Editor's Note: Sorry, advertisers, I've never been so embarassed... I will get right on chastising my other multiple personality that keeps pooping up, er, popping up.]

Yes, this is Cheap Eats. Read it. Then weep. Hello again, by the way, all you Cheap Eats cheerleaders and naysayers. Hello! I realize that for a little while, or perhaps indefinitely, I’ll pretty much be blogging to no one. That’s OK. Just – if you feel the need to make a truly negative comment like the person(s) who said they won’t be coming back here again because the blog has deteriorated, then please don’t. I won’t approve the comment. And I’ll be sending you mucho bad vibes through the airwave antenna on my head.

I have installed a mean ass airwave antenna booster megacrazything on my head, likely stronger than the one that JPL uses, if JPL was a middle aged bald asian Cheap Eats blogger.

Qzap! You get the picture. And so on.

Back to Teriyaki Sauce, I think I prefer the consistency somewhere in between solidmess and runnypoo, but I can’t decide. In any case – I haven’t had much luck with the storebought varieties. And since this is Cheap Eats, we should probably be making our own.

Here is the start of a 3 Dollars and under recipe:

Homemade Teriyaki Sauce

1/4 cup soy sauce — $0.25
1 cup, plus 1/4 cup water — uh, free?
3 slices ginger, smashed — $0.10
4 cloves garlic, smashed — $0.10
4 tbsp brown sugar — $0.15
1 tbsp honey — $0.25
1 tbsp corn starch — $0.05

Total: $0.90

You get a pot. You fill it up with the soy sauce, brown sugar, honey, garlic, ginger and 1 cup of the water. Then you start heating the crazy thing up on low to medium heat, stir it, stir it godamn it, stir it!

Before it comes to boil, take 1 tbsp corn starch and 1/4 cup water and smash-mix the thing in a dish together. You want a corn-starch slurry, it should be free of lumps. You can use your finger to mix it, preferrably not the one you use to pick your nose or dig your earwax out.

Now slowly stir in the cornstarch mixture into the teriyaki sauce. Turn the heat down to “barely on”. It should thicken up right away. Keep stirring it, damnit, STIR it as if your life depended on it!

Just kidding, you don’t need to stir it like that. Anyhow, you can pick out the garlic and ginger now, or strain it if you want. If it’s too thick for your liking, add water.

Pour the gloopiness on appropriate meats or vegetables. There you go, have a “day”!

So far, this teri-sauce mixture seems to taste pretty good. Once in awhile, I chuck in some sesame oil to the mixture, maybe about 1/2 tsp or so.

I like to put it on chicken, but you could probably use it for beef, fish or other things. Just cook the main item fully, and then toward the end you sorta baste it with the sauce, and pour a little more on before serving.

I’d be curious if anyone has opinions on making your own teriyaki sauce. I’m sure your recipe is better than mine. I haven’t really perfected it yet, but so far it seems to taste better than any of the bottled types. I definitely think it’ll come out cheaper in the end to make your own – you can also substitute normal white sugar for the brown sugar or honey, though I’ve never tried it. I’ve seen a lot of recipes that also sub out the ginger for powdered ginger. That’ll probably make it even cheaper.

All right folks, see you in a bit – sorry for all the poo jokes, but you do know that it comes with the territory, right? If you don’t like it, then please LEAVE and don’t leave a comment. As far as I’m concerned, you can fly far, far away, to the land of grumbly poo bears who grumble by leaving grumbly comments on blogs because they’re too lazy to start their own blog. And so on…

[ Currently Eating: Salty Eye Boogers ]

I am sitting here at the computer. Waiting.

Waiting, waiting for my homemade ginger ale to call. Suddenly, he breaks into song: I’m waiting by the phone. Waiting for you to call me up and tell me I’m not alone. Hello, speak up, is there ginger ale there?

These hang ups are getting me down.

In a world frozen over with over fermentation. Let’s talk it over, let’s go out and paint the town.

Cause I’m waiting by the phone. Waiting for ginger ale to call me up and tell me I’m not alone…

End song plagiarization. Start recipe plagiarization.

So, I’ve been wanting to try out making some homemade ginger ale for awhile now. The idea came to me in a dream. Well, not really in a dream, because I wasn’t asleep. Actually, I was awake and this was no waking dream or nightmare. Actually squared, I was already on the interweb looking for a cheap recipe to try out.

The thing with all these ginger ale and ginger beer recipes is that they often require huge amounts of labor, time, time, time, time and weird ingredients, in that exact order. For the ginger beer, you have to make something called a “plant” and feed it. No thankee. Dude, I’m not going to keep adding sugar and yeast to a bottle for 2 weeks to produce some crappy tasting, slightly alcoholic ginger swill that I could just buy at Trader Joe’s.

But I found one ginger ale recipe that seemed pretty simple, both in ingredients and procedure.

Plus, it was written by a Professor-guy.

Man, that’s enough to convince me. Who would you rather trust with potentially exploding ale – a 30 year old mummy [sic] blogger or a Professor-guy of Biology and Chemistry?

The math, it should be done.

So I tried it out and the results are sorta detailed below.

The Professor-guy’s Homemade Ginger Ale

1 cup sugar — $0.30
1 lemon — $0.30
2 tbsp grated ginger — $0.25
1/4 teaspoon yeast — $0.15
water — negligible
2 liter plastic bottle

Total: $1.00

OK – you probably want to grate up the ginger first. This took me the longest time, even with a really good microplane zester thingy. I just have the habit of grating knuckles and fingertips when going too quickly. You can use less ginger – we actually felt like it needed MORE, but then we’re ginger eating maniacs.

Get the plastic bottle and make sure it’s clean. Oh, dude, I would NOT use glass bottles. No way. Using that much yeast makes it ferment like a fermenting madman. Just know that I will not be held responsible for any inadvertent boom-booms. Trust me, or rather, trust the Professor-guy whose recipe this is.

Get a plastic funnel, pour the sugar and yeast into the bottle. Shake it a little. Get a glass measuring cup, stick the ginger in it. Juice the lemon, and pour it into the cup as well. Swirl it around.

Now dump that lemon-ginger mofo into the funnel. Professor-guy said to not worry about it sticking in the funnel. Fill up the unwashed glass measuring cup with clean water. Pour that into the funnel and it’ll wash all the remains into the bottle. Damn, I like this Professor-guy – such attention to detail.

Fill up the remaining space in the plastic bottle with clean water. You can use the funnel if you like. Just don’t fill it up too much. I actually left about 2 inches at the top, though Professor-guy says 1 inch is OK. Cap it and shake to distribute – turn the bottle upside down to make sure the sugar is not sticking in the crevices.

Now comes the sketchy part – leave the bottle in room temperature for between 8-48 hours. I would say to put it in a bomb-proof bag, but not everyone has one of those. The reason for the great range of time is that the temperature of the room and the efficacy of the yeast can be REALLY different.

So how do you know it’s done – you kinda “squeeze the bottle forcefully”. So much for science! If you can’t really dent it in, then it’s time to refrigerate it. Then chill it in the fridge overnight. When you’re opening it the next day, make sure to open it slowly. Dang, there’s a lot of gas in there.

You’ll want to strain it into a glass, unless you like bits of ginger and lemon floating around in your glass. I actually do – feels more homemade.

This entire recipe was copped from Professor-guy. Thank you, Professor-guy.

Some quick thoughts – I didn’t use a standard 2 liter bottle because I didnt’ have one at home. I used one of those harder plastic containers, but it seems to work the same way.

However, I found my ginger ale bottle got rock hard within like 5-6 hours! This is probably because I used double the yeast recommended by the professor. I did not have any inadvertent boom-booms, but this is probably not recommended. However, it did produce some passable carbonated ginger ale in a shorter time. I used the Fleischmann’s instant active yeast packets.

I’ve heard you can use dried grated ginger with similar results, but we always have the fresh stuff around. I thought the lemon juice was just for flavoring, and Professor-guy indeed said it was optional. However, I’ve seen another person say it’s important to balance the pH or something. I’ll let the other Professor-guys (or gals) comment on that.

The refrigeration is actually necessary to stop or slow the fermentation process, so make sure you put the bottle in the fridge before it has a chance to get really sketchy. Because the liquid is cold, the sugar sometimes doesn’t dissolve right away, and that may affect the time as well. I might experiment with using a simple syrup instead of sugar next time.

Overall, the ginger ale was surprisingly good. In my humble non-Professor-guy opinion, it was more of a “lemony soda drink with a ginger taste”. But I’d much rather drink this than Sprite.

It lasts for a few days in the fridge. For grins, on the 3rd day I dumped a little more sugar and yeast into the bottle to see if it would make it more fizzy again. I left it out until the bottle got hard, and then refrigerated it. That actually worked pretty nicely, except it tasted a little too much like breadahol (alcoholic bread) than it probably should.

On the subject of alcoholic content – I don’t think that there’s that high a level of alcohol in this type of homemade ginger ale. I think if you keep on “feeding it”, it might get higher. It certainly tasted more like alcohol after I tried adding more yeast. Well, maybe some of the Professor-guy-types out there can weigh in on that.

Anyhow, at about $1 a bottle it’s a pretty nice drink to sip, while waiting on the phone.

[Editor's Note: I am not a Professor of Grungology, but Magic Bonus points will be given if you knew the song I was singing. Without googling it, genius.]

5/25/10 | Tea Eggs

[ Currently Eating: Dharmalars ]

Tea Eggs - Cheap Eats at Bloglander

I am an egg paranoiac.

I admit it. Yes, you may have seen one of those obsessive-compulsive, sweatpants-clad egg fondlers at the market just a few weeks ago.

That was ME fondling your eggs Mr. Stater Brother.

I open up a box of eggs and then set them up on the shelf to check and see if they’ve slipped any fake candy eggs in the box. These things happen sometimes at the egg factory, especially around Easter time.

I smell the eggs for any hints of radioactivity. I rub them for good luck. Then I place them, lengthwise between the 2nd back molars on the right side of my mouth and tilt my head toward the light to see if any pictures of Spock are transmitted into my brain. (Walter Bishop told me to do that, you know, just in case. In case of what, I’m not sure…)

Then I roll them across the floor to make sure the yolk distribution is correct.

The trajectory on the floor must inscribe a certain parabolic arc, and if it does not, then I put them back in their container and start all over again with another box. You see, you must never, ever mix up the eggs that come in a box. They are meant to be together and CANNOT be separated.

If they are separated, an immediate high frequency coded signal will begin to be transmitted from a hidden circuitboard embedded at the base of each cardboard box of eggs. This will contact a base station at the factory and immediately alert the chickens to which these eggs belong. The chickens will then start to run around clucking as if their heads were cut off.

The factory manager, noting the obvious egg space-time continuum disturbance, will then send out sleek Lincoln towncars filled with men in black to the supermarket where the signal has come from.

They will be instructed to apprehend any bad eggs.


The above scenario, while not exactly true, is not exactly false. I do check my eggs before buying, because I’ve gotten some cracked ones before. It’s good idea to at least open the box, hidden microchip circuitboard or not.

Recently, we came into an overabundance of eggs due to the perfect storm of an egg fire sale at the market and a shopping list gone awry. I was just going to boil ‘em up and make an enormous egg salad sandwich the size of an alligator. But then I decided to try out a recipe for a type of egg that I’ve never made before. These are tea eggs.

I’ve been a tea egger (a consumer of tea eggs) for awhile now.

No, not a tea bagger. A tea EGGER.

These tea eggs are pretty much just boiled eggs that have been infused with various spices. While most recipes I’ve seen call for particular separate spices, I think there’s actually a packet of stuff that you can buy at specialty markets to make tea eggs – something similar to a “five spice” taste. I decided to make it from scratch because we happened to have the star anise and the cinnamon in the pantry.

Tea Eggs - Cheap Eats at Bloglander

One of the coolest thing about the tea eggs is the spiderweb lines that appear on the surface. This comes about because you crack the eggs lightly after boiling and then put them into a liquid mixture. The area where the cracks are gets darker, resulting in the lines.

This can be really cool if you take a few eggs to lunch and tell your unsuspecting (soon to be ex) friends “Did I ever tell you about the alien chicken at home that lays eggs? Here’s proof…”

Guys: This is also a great conversation piece at bars. You accost a pretty girl, whip one of these bad boys out, and say “Hey baby – let me peel my egg for you.” You can also follow this with: “Now imagine what the rest of me looks like!”

Well, without further ado, and with much trepidation, here is a recipe of sorts:

Tea Eggs

6 eggs — $1.00
2 tbsp loose tea (or 2 tea bags) — $0.25
1/2 cup soy sauce — $0.50
2 tsp sugar — $0.05
3-4 star anise pods — $0.25
1 cinnamon stick — $0.10
1 tsp pepper — negligible
optional salt — negligible

Total: $2.15

You get a pot. You fill it with water. Then you lay your eggs. (Dang. I’ve been trying to use a nice pun about laying eggs in this post, but it just never worked its way in.)

Boil the summabitch. Well, get it up to boil anyhow. Then turn the heat off, and put the lid on. Let it sit for 12-15 min. I don’t know if this is really necessary for this recipe, but this is how we usually make nice boiled eggs that don’t have a powdery center. Thanks Martha Farking Stewart…

Take the eggs out with a spoon or whatever, and put ‘em in a bowl. Run cold water on it if you don’t want to burn off your fingerprints. Then lightly crack the eggs. I just cracked them on the sink, but I heard sometimes it’s better if you whack ‘em with a butter knife or heavy spoon. Whatever. You just need to make sure they’re cracked enough so the flavor can enter the eggs.

Put ‘em back in the water in the pot. You can use new water if you want. Add tea, soy sauce, sugar, star anise, cinnamon and pepper. You might need to add some salt. Or, you could just add more soy sauce.

Get the thing up to boil again, then reduce the heat to low and simmer it for 2 hours or more. I think it depends how strong you want the flavor. During the cooking process, you might need to chuck some more water in there. To make sure you don’t end up a dry pot with exploding eggs, and trust me I have done that on occasion while boiling eggs.

When done, let the eggs cool, crack ‘em and eat. You can fridge them for a few days at least too.

Tea Eggs - Cheap Eats at Bloglander

You can increase or decrease the amount of spices to taste. The batch I made for the first time didn’t seem to have enough flavor, so I returned the eggs to the pot and cooked for another hour or so. They tasted better after that. I didn’t add salt, but many recipes I’ve seen call for both soy sauce and salt. You should play around with the proportions.

I still have hesitations about posting these 3 dollar and under recipes. I know they’re a lot of fun for people and very popular, but I sometimes feel like I’ve gotten myself backed into a corner with them. It’s really hard to come up with recipes for $3 or less, because I haven’t adjusted for inflation. Or for people who write in complaining that I don’t know the price of [insert food item].

It’s also harder for keep the comedy going with recipes like this because I feel the need to actually write something of use to people.

In any case, that doesn’t matter because I’m going away.

Yesterday, I went to Fresh & Easy and randomly swapped out 5013 eggs between boxes while the workers weren’t looking.

The men in the Lincoln towncars are coming.

They’re coming to take me away, HO HO HEE HEE HA HA to the funny farm.

Where life is beautiful all the time.

[Editor's Note: If you didn't understand that, then you should probably listen to this song. Also, you are probably why I didn't make the obvious joke about how tasty my "star anise" is in this post. I thought it was too easy, and I don't want to offend all the star anise fans out there.]

[ Currently Eating: Leftover stuffed zucchinis ]

Hot Dog Egg - Cheap Eats at Bloglander

Here is a confession.

Long ago, I used to laugh, laugh and laugh at people who said they put cut up pieces of hot dogs into macaroni in cheese.

These were the type of Jurassic-era trolls who used to hold me down on the playground and fart into my open mouth. But that’s another yarn for another day.

Anyhow, I’ve since learned the joys of using hot dogs in idiotic recipes like this one. I think I’ve actually covered this once before, but with the Eeekconomy still in the dumps, I guess some people would appreciate more recipes under $3.

This is the Hot Dog Egg Sandwich and for Cheap Eats, it rules. The great thing about hot dogs is that they’re so versatile. I know a lot of people who never eat them except for Labor Day BBQs, if at all. I’m thinking, hey if it’s a special BBQ, and there’s other great food, then why would you eat a hot dog?

I know that hot dogs aren’t the greatest thing for you since sliced California rolls. However, I think the key is moderation. If I was young, wild, and full of bullcrap, I guess I would have tattooed the word “Moderation” on my chest.

Then again, I don’t like needles. But I do like hot dogs.

In an egg sandwich like this, I find a little goes a long way. If you slice up the hot dog thinly, you can pretty much make an egg sandwich with only half a hot dog. Saving food like this is usually a good thing, but it can be a bad thing because it means you’ll use up that 10 pack of hot dogs twice as slowly. I don’t know about you, but I’m not going to eat 20 hot dog egg sandwiches in a row. But maybe it might be good if you have a big family.

Hot Dog Egg Sandwich

2 slices bread — $0.10
1 hot dog — $0.15
1 slice American cheese — $0.20
1 egg — $0.15
pepper — negligible

Total: $0.60

Get a small non-stick pan heat it up. I like to use wooden chopsticks, but feel free to wield a wooden spoon. Crack the egg, and beat it lightly into submission. Dump some pepper in if you want. Use two eggs if your cholesterol count is fine and dandy. Use three or four if you want it NOT to be fine and dandy. Slice up the hot dog thinly. I often only use a half a hot dog, because those mofos are a little salty and full of fun preservatives.

Toast up the bread slices in the toaster. Fry the hot dog slices, turning once or twice. I don’t like ‘em too burnt, but you can do whatever. Now push the hot dog slices into the corner and dump the egg on top. I like to tilt the pan so the egg stays in the corner. I also use chopsticks to make sure all the runny egg contacts with the pan. You only need to cook it for a few minutes or so. If you’re a fancy chef who’s good at flipping stuff, flip the egg over. If you’re not, just cook it longer.

Stick a slice of cheese on top. You can cover it, but I usually just let it go a few seconds more and then remove it to the toast. When you cover up the egg w/ the other slice of bread, it usually melts enough.

Sit back, turn on your favorite morning TV show, and eat your hot dog egg sandwich.

You’re basically making fast fritatta containing no vegetables and only hot dogs. If this bothers you, and it should, then by all means throw in some leftover bell pepper, broccoli, onion, olives artichoke, nuts, bolts, kewpie dolls, pictures of Dorian Gray, etc. You’ll want to cook the veggies before the hotdogs if raw. Oh, sometimes I stick a slice of lettuce in it for appearances sake.

I had a moral to this recipe/story. But unfortunately, it has been obliterated by years and years of Jurassic-era trolls holding me down on the playground and farting into my open mouth. All that meethane has gone to mee head.

One, two, three, four, five, hot dog egg sandwich yum.

[ Currently Eating: Homemade Toast ]

Coffee Syrup - Cheap Eats at Bloglander

I like flavored coffee.

I guess that counts as a sheepish confession. Though, I prefer to call it an antelopish or gazellish confession. You know how it goes: Wild animals and coffee.

I decided to say that up front so that all the hard-core coffee drinkers could immediately hit the back button and go back to drinking whatever passes for the Real Coffee Deal nowadays.

I also can’t drink coffee straight black. I need milk or cream or 1/2 and 1/2 in it. Or at least some whiskey, especially early in the morning. I suspect this is somewhat less of a heinous offense in the eyes of coffee drinkers (and alcoholics) around the world. But I’m throwing that out there too, just in case.

I also sometimes nuke day old coffee in the microwave, drink fricking Folger’s instant coffee on occasion, and I have been known to tentatively eat some of the grounds in the mistaken belief that it will make me grow a few inches.

I meant in height, you maniacs.

For the three people still with me after those confessions, congratulations!

OK. So I like the flavored coffee and coffee drinks, but I really hate to drop an Abe Lincoln every day at Stirbuks. So, we’ve been buying the standard Torani Syrup to flavor up our morning drinks. The only thing is that they’re sort of expensive, especially considering they’re mostly sugar water. We usually get the 750ml large sizes, and those usually run between $7 and $10 at specialty stores. On Amazon, I discovered you can pick up a three pack of syrup for $16.30 which comes out to about $5.40 a bottle.

Not too bad, but I was thinking – how hard could it be to just make your own coffee syrup at home?

Coffee Syrup - Cheap Eats at Bloglander

The answer is that if you know how to boil water, you know how to make your own coffee syrup. The most difficult part is the flavoring. If you’re just looking to get simple sugar syrup, hey, add equal parts sugar and water together, reduce it by half, and there you go. I have to admit, I never really got into making simple syrup – but it’s a really handy thing to have around, especially when you need to flavor cold beverages. And yes, it’s just boiling sugar and water together.

I looked up a bunch of different recipes for coffee syrups, and a lot of them have you scraping vanilla bean pods, harvesting your own hazelnuts, etc. Ugh-a-bugga. The method I settled for flavoring the syrup just uses vanilla extract.

Yes, I realize that the price of these extracts if you buy them JUST to make your coffee syrup sort of defeats the purpose of making your own syrup. However, I think most people have Vanilla extract in the cupboard – and if you’re using a teaspoon, I think it’s worth it. Based on a 2 Fl. Oz. bottle of vanilla extract that costs $3.50, I think 1 tsp should run you about 30 to 40 cents.

I’m sure that using an authentic vanilla bean pod will make it taste a ton better – let me know if you try that out. My vanilla bean plant is tired after doing all those pushups this morning.

Vanilla Sugar Syrup

1 cup sugar — $0.35
1 tsp vanilla extract — $0.35
1 cup water

Total: $0.70

Get a pot. Dump the sugar, water and extract into it. Stir it up with a wooden spoon to kind of dissolve at least some of the sugar.

Flame up that pot with a medium flame. I wouldn’t walk away, because it won’t take that long. I’d also stir the pot once in awhile. Don’t watch the pot too hard, or it wont boil. Haha.

When it starts to boil, then reduce the heat and simmer the mo-fo. Everyone says to reduce it by half, but my eyes aren’t very accurate. So it’ll be about 4-7 minutes I think. It won’t really thicken up THAT much, which is correct because the syrup that you buy is pretty watery as well.

Let it cool, and that’s pretty much it. Congratulations.

This whole shebang seems to result in about 1 1/3 cups of syrup, or, if my shoddy math (and googling) is correct – about 1/3 Liter. So, 750ml (3/4 Liter) of Torani costs at the cheapest, say $5. That same amount of homemade coffee syrup would be, uh, about $1.60? Please don’t check my math work, I’m that embarrassed.

In any case, $5 versus $1.60 seems worth a shot. I suspect that the price will change dramatically if you use real vanilla bean pods, or if you try other extracts like almond or hazelnut. Who knows. The syrup I made seemed to be adequate, although it definitely wasn’t as fragrant. I might try doubling the vanilla extract next time or something.

The consistency of the syrup is about right. It doesn’t seem like it’d be sticky, but I did spill a considerable quanity on the stove top. The resulting mess was both sticky and tasty, though not in that exact order…

One thing I noticed is that while I don’t require any of the preservatives that Torani puts in their syrup, they also sometimes add stuff like citric acid. I didn’t notice it at all until I tasted the store-bought and homemade coffee syrup side by side. The citric acid definitely adds a little something, a bit of a zing. I haven’t thought about experimenting with stand-ins for the citric acid yet – maybe some lemon?

I know some folks also recommended using brown sugar in some of the recipes – I think I might give that one a go later. Others try to use homemade caramel. But I think I’ll leave that one to other people. Boiling sugar and water for 5 minutes is plenty dangerous enough for me right now.

[ Currently Eating: Yummy Chips and Stuff ]

Enchilada Sauce - Cheap Eats at Bloglander

Hola. I’m JA, and yet the amount of Mexican food cooked in our household when I was a kid was pretty significant. I grew up on it. Granted, it was kinda “fake” Mexican food – the kind that the Better Homes and Gardens included in their cookbooks in the 1950s in order to show how ethnically diverse they were. But still, it was better than Taco Bell. Not that I didn’t eat at Taco Bell frequently too.

To this day, it’s kind of stuck with me. I would say Mexican food is my favorite cuisine. When people learn I don’t eat sushi, sashimi and wasabi, they usually say, what kind of freak Japanese person are you? Yes, I’d rather eat a plate of enchiladas than a plate of sashimi any day. Well, I do eat a lot of rice.

The story is that my step-grandfather, who was born here in the 20s in the OC, learned to really like Mexican food. And that was passed down to my mom, when she came over after the war. I guess I’m continuing the tradition. My dad and brother aren’t as huge fans of it.

The complaint I hear the most from Asian Americans about Mexican food is that they don’t like the cumin flavors. They say it smells like B.O. Yeah. And natto, fish sauce, stinky tofu and durian smell like farking flowers.

(By the way, a post about Natto is coming soon.)

We make quite a few enchiladas and enchilada-type casseroles at home nowadays. For some reason, I’ve never really thought about making my own enchilada sauce. I usually buy the cans, made by Ortega or La Palma or whatever’s on sale.

One thing I always noticed, when you get red sauce enchiladas at a halfway decent Mexican restaurant, the sauce seems a little different than what you get out of a can. I think it’s less tomato-ey and more brown in color. When I made my own, I discovered that sure enough, it’s more like what they have in restaurants.

Actually, the first time I made the sauce was when I was all set to roll up some enchiladas and I discovered we didn’t have any cans left. I was too lazy to drive to the store. I think some people may not like this type of enchilada sauce because it’s not what they’re used to. It has a slightly bitter note to it. I like it a lot better, however, and I think it comes in a little cheaper than buying cans.

Now, as I’ve said before, every time I try to do the old recipe under $3, I get 99 people writing in telling me that I haven’t calculated the price of a pinch of salt correctly. My response has always been that it’s not so much the exact price you should be concerned with. It’s the fact that you’re making this at home, instead of buying it in a can. Five cents misquoted here and there isn’t going to make a lot of difference.

The amount of mail I get about it is tiring, but I’ve decided to do the recipes again. And yes, there are a whole lot of blogs and content sites who’ve jumped on the cheap bandwagon and started doing “recipes under $X amount”. I’m proud to say I was doing it since the beginning, before it was cool. I may have not had the original idea, but this blog was one of the first to do it.

Enchilada Sauce

4 tbsp white flour — $0.05
1/4 cup cooking oil — $0.05
2 tbsp chile powder — $0.05
4 cloves garlic, smashed — $0.10
1 cup tomato sauce – $0.30
1 tsp salt — negligible
Cayenne pepper if desired
2 cups hot water

Total: $0.55

Get a pan. Get a wooden spoon. Well, you don’t need a wooden spoon, but I like it better. Also, it might work better if your pan is not a non-stick variety. But whatever.

Over low to med heat, brown the flour and chile powder. Make sure to stir it pretty frequently, scraping into the corners. I forget how long it takes, probably a few minutes. Just try not to burn it. If it starts to smoke, take it off heat.

Then add the oil and mix it into a paste. You could probably do the oil first and make a roux, but the recipe I took this from said flour first.

Slowly add the water and tomato sauce, stirring frequently until you get the right consistency. You can fix it by adding more liquid, so don’t add too much to start. Throw in the garlic cloves and salt to taste. Add cayenne pepper if you like it spicy. Simmer it on low until thickened slightly. It’ll probably be about 20-30 minutes. Off heat, remove garlic cloves and let it cool a bit. You’re ready to make enchiladas.

This recipe is an adaptation of one I found online somewhere. I can’t remember which one it is. It’s about good enough for a medium pan of enchiladas, depending on how wet you like your enchiladas. You can easily multiply the quantities in the recipe to get more sauce. You may want to mess around with the amount of garlic. Also, this is a “smooth” sauce – I’ve seen many others that include crushed tomatoes or sauteed onions for a chunkier one.

Enchilada Sauce - Cheap Eats at Bloglander

I dunno if toasting the flour is really necessary, but it did seem to take the uncooked flour taste away from the sauce. Just be sure you don’t burn the flour.

I omitted cumin in the recipe because I didn’t think it was necessary. You can throw some in, and for that matter, any other spices you want. The cayenne may not be necessary if you’re going to add heat to the enchilada in other ways. I increased the tomato sauce from 2/3 cup to a full cup – I think some people may like even more tomato taste in it. To get the right consistency you may need to add more or less water as well. This sauce will keep pretty well in the fridge for a week or so.

By the way, enchiladas are one of the messiest things I’ve ever cooked. I don’t know if it’s just me, but I always make a huge mess and use up a ton of dishes. I always feel like a four year old after making them. Wait, I always feel like a four year old anyway…

Ga Ga Goo Goo, Coo Coo Ca Choo.

[ Currently Eating: Homemade Bread n Stuff ]

Cheeseybread - Cheap Eats at Bloglander

Hi hi hi. I’m on a Cheesebread Mission.

I’ve been like this for several months now. Baking up Bread and Cheese. And Bread. And Cheese. And Bread. And a few Jalapeño peppers thrown in. More Cheese and Bread.

It all started about 25 years ago. Ever since I was a young cheap eats brat, my parents had been taking us on trips from Los Angeles north to the Mammoth / Yosemite area for camping nearly every year. This is a 400 mile or so drive. For you east coasters – that’s probably going through at least 3 or 4 states, but here in California it’s just a long drive through the same state.

Anyhow, one of our favorite stops along the way has always been Erick Schat’s Bakkerÿ up in Bishop, CA. We would always pick up some of their Original Sheepherder Bread (introduced into the Owens Valley area during the Gold Rush), and my absolute favorite was the Jalapeño Cheese Bread variety.

The bread is fairly dense but has a chewy quality. It’s not made up of air like a lot of other artisnal breads. The cheese is not distributed through the bread evenly. Rather, there are enormous clumps of orange cheese and peppers in the middle. In fact, there is a gigantic cavity in the center of each flat loaf of bread where all the cheese has accumulated. The entire loaf is extremely heavy because of all the cheese inside of it.

For years now, I’ve been wanting to try and make this type of bread at home because it was too long to wait an entire year to get some. The key came within the past few years or so when I discovered “No-Knead Bread” which was made (in)famous by Jim Lahey in a NY Times article. As I got more confident with bread, I decided to go on a mission.

That mission is to make cheesebread similar to Schat’s.

Now, it’s no big deal to make a cheesebread. I see Vermont Cheese Bread this and Hong Kong style Cheese Topped Buns that.

No, no, no.

I want the cheese to be a big fricken block inside the bread. Crowd Cheer: When I say “bread”, you say “cheese”. I want a big ass cavity (oh, the jokes) inside the bread with the cheese and jalapeños sticking to the walls. I don’t want the cheese integrated into the bread like most recipes insist on.

Needless to say, I’ve had a difficult time. But through experiments, I’ve got it almost right. I think the problem is that not too many people actually WANT a bread to turn out like this. Thus, I haven’t seen many recipes for the cheesebread I’m trying to make. The other problem is that I’m not a very good baker to start with.

I’ve gotten close – but I’m still on my Cheesebread Mission. What I’ve got in my favor is that I’m an obstinate, stubborn SOB.

I have a feeling that a huge part of the failures so far have to do with trying to do this at home where my oven is just passable at best. The other part may be that I’m not adding in the correct percentages of everything (or even have the wrong ingredients), and also, I’ve resigned myself to using a Silpat on a cookie baking sheet. No pizza stone, etc.

Cheeseybread - Cheap Eats at Bloglander

Here’s one of the latest incarnations of the Faux-Schat’s Cheese Jalapeño Bread. It actually looks pretty good – this is the closest I’ve gotten. The top of my bread is more smooth, while I know the Schat’s one is rugged looking. The melted cheese has caused a large cavity or two to open up inside the bread. I gave up using an egg-based type of bread for now. I’ve been sticking to a really basic boule type recipe. For the record, here is what I’ve done so far.

Jalapeño Cheese Bread

3 1/4 cups unbleached white flour
1 tbsp active dry yeast
1.5 – 2 tsp kosher salt
1 cup hot water
1/2 cup cold milk
1-2 tbsp melted butter, plus more for brushing
1/2 to 1 cup shredded cheese (your choice)
2-3 sliced fresh sliced Jalapeños

I’ve been using either sharp cheddar or jack cheese since I believe that’s what Schat’s uses. I also use fresh Jalapeños, but I think you may be able to use those pickled slices in jars that go on nachos.

Get a large bowl, with a plastic loose fitting lid. Add hot water, milk, melted butter into the bowl and mix. Then add the yeast. Let it sit for awhile, it should foam a bit. IMPORTANT – you’ll kill the yeast if the liquid is too hot. It should be lukewarm, a little above body temp. If it’s too hot, wait awhile to add the yeast.

Next dump the flour and salt into the mixture. You can use your hands, but I like to use a rubber spatula to mix to start, then switch to wet hands. Get it all mixed, it should be kinda wet and sticky. If not, add more water. If too wet, add flour. Cover it, let it rise for about 2 to 2.5 hours in a warm place.

Sprinkle the top lightly with flour. Get some flour on your hands, it helps. Take out the dough (you may need to use more or less dough depending on the size you want) and cloak it. What the fricking hell is cloaking? While holding the dough in your hands, take the top of the dough and stretch the surface down to the bottom, rotate it a quarter turn and do it again. The idea is to have a smoother top surface while the bottom is more bunched up. I think that’s the idea anyhow.

Ok, then place on a wooden cutting board that has some flour on it. Get a rolling pin with some flour on it. Roll out the dough into a sort of oval. Or, you may just be able to stretch it with your hands instead. You might need to wait a bit because the dough will return to its normal shape. Sprinkle the cheese on top of the dough – you want good coverage but not an excess of cheese. Then evenly distribute the peppers over the cheese. Roll up the dough gently, and tuck the ends in underneath.

Put it on a Siplat (or other silicone type baking sheet) on top of a cookie sheet. Dust the top with flour, cover with plastic wrap and let it rise for about 1.5 – 2 hours.

Twenty minutes before you’re ready to bake, get the oven to about 400 degrees. I’ve had trouble with the temp and time, so you’re going to have to play around with it. Basically, put the cheese bread on the cookie sheet into the oven and bake for about 25-40 minutes. Around 5 minutes before you’re done (whenever that is), take some remaining shredded cheese and sprinkle it on top of the loaf.

When the loaf is done, take it out and brush it with melted butter. Let it cool, for an hour at least. When completely cool, store it in a ziploc bag.

Problems I’ve had so far are many. Early on, I found that cutting cheese up into cubes and incorporating it into the dough is not the way to go. You end up with tiny pockets of cheese, which is nice, but not a large cavity of cheese and peppers. You should shred the cheese and layer it on top, then roll the dough up. This creates a sort of spiral of cheese cavity in the middle. I believe having all that cheese clumped together is important in cavitation – the steam from all the cheese and peppers makes the large hole in the middle.

Egg based cheesebread have not worked as well for me, though I’m not entirely sure if Schat’s uses eggs in theirs. You may have to vary the amount of yeast and water as well to get a good rise.

I’d be interested to hear if anyone has tried to make this exact type of bread before. Remember, I’m not interested in cheese interspersed within bread – it HAS to be a big gigantic hole in the loaf with cheese and peppers in it.

One last thing – OMG do NOT touch your eyes while handling Jalapeños. It is TEH Painful…



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