Cheap Eats at Bloglander

Your guide to eating cheap including tips, recipes and techniques

Archives for 3 Dollars or Less

3/17/08 | Irish Soda Bread

[ Currently Eating: Leftover Corned Beef ]

Happy St. Patty’s everyone. You know what – it has been a Long, Long, Longass Time™ since we had a $3 Or Less Recipe here on Cheap Eats. The thing is, they’re so much work to write up. And what with all the calculating and the hordes of folks writing in to tell me I’ve gotten the price of 2 ounces of cake flour wrong (you would not believe the number of people who majored in Advanced Recipe Calculus in college), it’s just very discouraging. That’s why I’ve steered clear of them for awhile.

But today, since it’s St. Patrick’s, I’m going to borrow the new recipe my wife tried out to make Irish Soda Bread the other day. This is also her picture below.

Irish Soda Bread  Cheap Eats at Bloglander

She decided to make it because my family was having us over for Corned Beef and Cabbage and we didn’t have anything to bring. Here’s the basic recipe used. And please (for my sanity) remember, the dang prices are estimated. I can barely use a calculator as it is.

Irish Soda Bread

4 cups flour — $0.35
3 tbsp sugar — $0.10
1 tsp baking soda — $0.05
1 tbsp baking powder — $0.08
1/2 cup butter, softened — $0.90
(plus extra for brushing)
1 cup buttermilk — $0.35
(plus extra for brushing)
1 egg — $0.15
1/2 tsp salt (negligible)

Total: $1.98

Get the oven to 375F and grease a baking sheet. Mix the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt and butter in a bowl. You can use margarine instead of butter if you like.

Stir in 1 cup buttermilk and the egg so that you make a soft dough. You might need more (or less) buttermilk to make it right. Put some flour on a board and dump the dough onto it. Knead it slightly. Try not to overknead it, it gets tough otherwise. Shape it into a round loaf and put it on the baking sheet. With a sharp knife, cut a cross onto the top.

Melt some butter and add it to the extra buttermilk. Brush the top of the loaf well with that mixture. Pop it into the oven for 45 min or so. Do the toothpick trick to see if it’s done: poke a toothpick into the center. Comes out clean, then it’s ready.

Continue reading “Irish Soda Bread” …

[ 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” …

5/2/07 | Hash Browns

[ Currently Eating: Leftover Chicken ]

Hash Browns - on Cheap Eats at Bloglander

More potato stuff – I just can’t seem to get away from it. Actually, I almost didn’t post this one because I thought I had already done a post on Hash Browns but it turns out that one was on Home Fries.

I dunno if a lot of people go through the trouble to try make hash browns at home, but I’ve tried several times with varying degrees of success. I guess you could always head over to IHOP or some similar breakfast place to get them. But I recently got a pretty cool flat cast iron reversible grill pan as a gift – the kind that goes over two burners on the stove. So I decided to try make some hash browns again.

Hash Browns are pretty cool to make, because the list of ingredients is so short. Cooking them correctly isn’t as easy… I’m still trying to figure out the best method, but below is a general idea of what I usually do.

Hash Browns

1 large potato — $0.40
1-2 tbsp butter (from $1.00 4 oz stick) — $0.13
(or 1-2 tbsp of oil or cooking spray)
salt, pepper — negligible

Total: $0.53

Russets are probably easiest and most people have ‘em around. I don’t pre-cook the potatoes for hash browns because it’s thin enough, though for thicker home fries you might want to try that.

You can use either butter, oil, or cooking spray… but you should probably use at least something to prevent sticking and help browning. On my cast iron flat grill I’ve gotten away with using very little oil or cooking spray. If you’re using a pan, try using a non-stick surface one first… it’ll allow you to use less oil. Butter really makes the potatoes brown nicely, however, so you might want to experiment.

Peel and wash the potato(es). Heat up the pan/griddle and oil/butter it. Meanwhile, grate the potato finely. What I like to do is put the grated potato in a paper towel or cheesecloth and squeeze the heck out of it. A considerable amount of water will drain out.

Scatter the potatoes on the grill and cook until brown on one side. Try and always keep the potatoes spread thinly instead of clumped up together. Flip it with a spatula and cook until desired doneness is achieved. Salt and pepper to taste.

Continue reading “Hash Browns” …

1/16/07 | Quesadillas

[ Currently Eating: Bacon ]

Cheap Eats - Quesadillas

OMG. WTF. It has been colder than a Witch’s Frozen Banquet Dinner where I live. Yes, I represent the wimpiness that is Southern California’s winters. It got down to 29 degrees F the other night. Man! Ok, stop laughing now.

I can’t believe I actually haven’t done a feature on Quesadillas yet. I know I’ve posted about them as fast food before (believe it was Del Taco’s, which tasted like crap boogers to me). But the humble quesadilla is a great staple here at Cheap Eats and for many grocery-challenged denizens around the world.

I was going to write up a lame “recipe” for it a la the infamous Ghetto food line that was so popular. But in the interest of time, I’ll just say: take two flour tortillas and some cheese that melts. Layer them in a pan. Cook. Done.

Ok, so there’s generally a good deal more going on for most quesadillas. But you get the gist of it. There are several great things about quesadillas, but two of my favorite are that they are massively movable (i.e. portable) and they function as both snacks and meals. Many a long and boring commute to UCLA was livened up by a quesadilla in one hand and KXLU on the radio dial. How does the Dr. Seuss rhyme go? I would eat them in a house, I would eat them with a mouse. I would eat Quesadillas stuffed with ham, I would eat them Sam I Am…

Continue reading “Quesadillas” …

[ Currently Eating: Leftover Hong Kong Chicken Steak ]

Cheap Eats Clam Spaghetti

It’s been an awful long time since we had a recipe on Cheap Eats. It’s not that I haven’t been cooking – just that it takes awhile to figure out or even remember exactly what I put in dishes.

This one is from a few months ago, but I think it’s semi-accurate. It’s Clam Spaghetti, one of my favorite things to make for a quick lunch if I happen to have the clams on hand. You’ll note that the popular pasta to use for a dish like this is actually linguini – I actually like the thinner noodles and I’ll often use the even thinner spaghettini.

Cheap Eats Clam SpaghettiThe title of this post is “Chicken of the Sea Clams” instead of Clam Spaghetti, and that’s because it was originally meant as a review of the Chicken of the Sea Whole Baby Clams in the foil pouches. You’ve probably seen the tuna, clams and possibly oysters in these foil pouches. They do tend to taste a little better to me than the canned variety, but are definitely more pricey.

The other day I happened to see the clams on sale for a buck each so I picked up a few pouches to make spaghetti. These pouches are pretty small – only 100 grams worth of clams – so you need 2 pouches to actually make enough clam spaghetti for two people.

Before I get into the quality of the clams – here’s the approximate recipe for those who are too impatient:

Clam Spaghetti

2 3.5 oz pouches of baby clams — $2.00
2 tbsp e.v. olive oil — $0.10
3-4 cloves minced garlic — $0.07
1/2 lb dry spaghetti / spaghettini — $0.50
1-2 tbsp chopped parsley — $0.05
1/2 cup chicken stock — $0.15
1 tbsp grated parmesan cheese – $0.10
red pepper flakes — optional
salt, pepper, water – negligible

Total: $2.97

Get a pot of water for the spaghetti going on high. Mince up the parsley and set aside. Mince the garlic and set that aside. Open the pouches and drain the clams, reserving the liquids.

Wait until water boils, then add the dry spaghetti. Start melting the butter in the olive oil in a skillet on medium. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and saute for 1-2 minutes. Add the reserved clam liquid and chicken stock and simmer for 3-5 minutes. (Keep and eye on the spaghetti so it doesn’t get overcooked!) Some people also put in a few tablespoons of Chardonnay or other white wine as well. If you do so, add that first and make sure to cook it out before adding the chicken stock and clam juice.

Add the clams to the skillet (do NOT cook this for too long – ). When the spaghetti is al dente, I like to take it out with tongs and put it directly into the pan. Then whack the parsley in there along with the parm cheese and salt/pepper to taste. If it’s too dry, add a bit of the pasta cooking water. Toss it a bit and serve.

Continue reading “Chicken of the Sea Clams” …

8/22/06 | Ghetto McMuffins

[ Currently Eating: Some Kind Of Cereal ]

Egg Mcmuffins at HomeAfter the immensely popular Ghetto Pizza post, I decided to take another trip down ghetto memory lane. Again, I don’t mean ghetto in any derogatory way… like, if you live in or near a sketchy neighborhood I’m not saying this is the only type of food you would eat. In fact, you probably eat much better than me…

Anyhow, welcome to Ghetto McMuffins 101. The idea is to mimic all of those breakfast sandwiches that cost an arm and a leg. Hey, there’s no reason to make your wallet feel so sad in the morning! Make one at home. It takes about 5-10 minutes.

I mentioned latch-key kid food before, and this could also fall into that category. However, it’s a bit more “advanced” since I find it difficult to make egg scrambles in the microwave or toaster (it can be done, however). You’ve gotta use the stove; but it’s still pretty fast:

Ghetto McMuffins

1 english muffin — $0.25
1-2 eggs — $0.15
1/2 – 1 hotdog — $0.12
1 slice cheese, optional — $0.10
pepper, optional

Total: $0.62

Cut the english muffin in half and put it in the toaster set for extra crispy. Meanwhile, beat the egg(s) lightly in a small bowl. Throw in pepper if you like. Cut up the hotdog into chunks. Get a medium fire under a small (8-9 inch is fine) non stick omelette pan going. At some point you might want to put a bit of oil in the pan but I find I can avoid it for non-stick.

Cook the hot dogs until slightly browned. Distribute them across the bottom of the pan and pour in the egg(s). Lower the fire. Stir a bit with a spatula. Let it set up a bit, a few minutes. You can cover it to speed it along.

When the top is nearly cooked, get a rubber spatula and cut the scramble down the middle. Here, you can insert a slice of cheese or whatever you want on each semi-circle. Fold the egg semi-circle over so it’s a quarter-circle.

Put each quarter-circle on a toasted english muffin half. This makes 2 open face McMuffins, or close it up for a gigantic McMuffin.

Continue reading “Ghetto McMuffins” …

[ Currently Eating: Goldfish Crackers ]

[Edit: If you came here from Digg, hello. Once again, this is NOT my own recipe] I’m not sure about you, but when I was a kid I absolutely delighted in creating strange and inedible food concoctions. These early period “food pastiches” inevitably included ketchup, mustard, soy sauce, mayonaise and salad dressing. The trick then was to try to make it an inviting color (usually through liberal dashes of food coloring) so that an unexpecting parent would try and drink it.

I didn’t have much success back then, but those memories are part of the reason I still enjoy messing with food today. So, a combination of the hot weather blasting us, my need for something to drink at rollerhockey and money being short as usual, I decided to see if I couldn’t mix me up a batch of Homemade Gatorade. I mean, how hard could it be to make salty flavored water?

A plethora of Gatorade recipes exist, and though some of them rely on things like Potassium Chloride (salt substitute branded as Nu-Salt?), fructose and Kool-Aid mix, the basic ingredients are pretty much water, salt, sugar and some flavoring. I decided to have a shoot-out of Homemade Gatorade versus the real stuff since I had a couple bottles of Gatorade leftover.

Here’s the basic recipe I picked, I went with one that featured OJ because that’s what I had (apparently you can get some potassium from the OJ?)

Homemade Gatorade Recipe

1/2 cup orange juice — $0.15
9 tbs. Sugar — $0.03
3/8 tsp Salt – negligible
2 liters (approx) water – negligible

Total: $0.18

Using boiling or hot water can make things go faster, but you’ll need to chill it down somehow before fridging it. So just mix everything together and see if it tastes like Gatorade. Does it? Read on…

Continue reading “Making Homemade Gatorade” …



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