Cheap Eats at Bloglander

Your guide to eating cheap including tips, recipes and techniques

Archives for 3 Dollars or Less


6/20/05 | Tuna Sandwich


[ Currently Eating: Ice Cream ]

Tuna SandwichAh.. the tuna sandwich. When it comes to sandwiches, tuna is a pretty popular way to go for picnics, bag lunches, and marketing meetings (the in-house catering service for where I used to work seemed to have nothing but tuna and egg salad). It’s a pretty popular sandwich, but is it Cheap Eats?

In many cases, the answer is no because of the price of tuna. There are many different brands to pick from like Chicken of the Sea, Bumblebee, and Starkist, but the price seems to be pretty static for them. They also have Generic tuna, but this is one food where I think I might pay the extra 25 cents per can.

I make sandwiches from tuna pretty frequently, sometimes as a standard sandwich and other times as a Tuna Melt, which I’ll save for another time. One thing I like to do is to change up the consistency of the tuna by putting something “crunchy” in it. If you don’t like the crunch, in this case provided by celery, you can easily substitute it or omit it completely. I think it makes it less boring, though. I also put in tomato and/or lettuce usually:

Simple Tuna Sandwich

1 can Chunk Light tuna — $0.79
1/2 tomato, sliced — $0.25
2 slices white bread — $0.10
1 rib celery, minced — $0.10
1 green onion, minced fine — $0.05
2-4 tbsp mayo — $0.10
Salt / pepper — negligible

Total: $1.39

I don’t need to tell you how to make a tuna sandwich do I? Oh, all right. Mince the green onion really fine, this is kind of important so you don’t bit into onion chunks. Chop it super fine and it will add flavor without being annoying. Mince the celery too, but leave some chunkiness for texture.

Pop the bread in the toaster and toast away to your liking. Drain the tuna and empty into large bowl. Break it up with a fork and then add the celery, onion, mayo and salt and pepper to taste. Mix up well. Spread the mixture on bread, top with tomato slices, and cover with other slice. Yay, tuna sammich is done.


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6/17/05 | Loco Moco


[ Currently Eating: Coffee ]

Loco Moco

You are probably looking at the above picture on your screen and wondering if I’ve lost my marbles. What in the world is a Loco Moco and did you make that up?

Nope, this is a real dish and contrary to your first impression is not a Mexican or Spanish dish (at least I don’t think it is). Nor does it have anything to do with El Pollo Loco. There’s no chicken in it.

This is actually a “Hawaiian” dish that I’ve been eating for a long time (my dad’s side is from Kona). I think they’ve always sold it over there, but recently there has been a huge influx of Hawaiian BBQ restaurants into the area where I live. This is the latest fad in California (and a few other Western states); everyone and their mom wants to open one of these Hawaiian BBQ deals (a big chain that came over from Hawaii is called L&L) nowadays because they have been making a huge amount of money, primarily because people on the Atkins diet can gorge themselves off the meat heavy menu.

Not every Hawaiian BBQ chain sells Loco Moco, but most have something similar. So what is in this “crazy booger” of a meal? Why, it is a veritable layered heart attack on a plate. The usual consists of 2 scoops of Japanese sticky rice on a plate. Layer on TWO grilled or fried hamburger steaks, then add TWO fried eggs on top, and then douse the whole thing with artery clogging brown gravy. Sometimes there is a scoop of macaroni salad on the side. Whew, I rarely finish the whole thing when I eat it at a restaurant; it’s just too much.

Which is why I make a “mini” version at home. It’s slightly better for your arteries as well. The key for me is: less meat, less eggs, more gravy. Indeed, you can barely see the hamburger underneath the gravy. Here is how it goes:

Loco Moco Mini

1-2 cups cooked sticky rice — $0.15
1 egg — $0.10
1/4 lb hamburger meat — $0.50
1/4 brown onion, sliced — $0.15
3-5 mushrooms, sliced — $0.25
1/4 cup flour — $0.05
1/3 can chicken stock — $0.15
1 tbsp Bread crumbs — $0.03
Dash soy sauce — $0.02
2 tbsp oil — $0.05
Salt / pepper / water — negligible

Total: $1.45

(If hamburger meat is frozen, gently defrost on plate in 1 minute intervals… you don’t want to cook it!)

Warm up the rice in microwave if cold. Spread out the rice fairly thinly on a large plate and set aside. Heat a small pan on high. Mix the hamburger meat, bread crumbs, soy sauce, and salt and pepper to taste in a small bowl. Form a “patty” that is not round like a hamburger but elongated, like a Salisbury Steak almost. It should be very thin, so it will cook fast.

When pan is hot, add 1/2 tbsp of oil and sizzle that hamburger patty, about 1 minute on either side. It should be nice and chared. Remove to the plate on top of the rice and put it in the oven to rest. Now, DON’T wash the pan… add 1 tbsp of the oil in the pan and throw in the sliced onions and mushrooms. Sizzle that for about 5 minutes on medium or until onions are soft.

Meanwhile, get another small non-stick pan going with 1/2 tbsp of oil. Crack an egg in there and fry it, turning once through the cooking, until done as desired. Put that egg on top of the hamburger patty and put it back in the oven.

Returning to the onions and mushrooms – reduce heat to low and sprinkle flour evenly over mixture. DON’T mix it yet; let it stand there for about 3-5 minutes. This will cook the flour, preventing the gravy from tasting flour-ey. Now increase the heat to medium and slowly add chicken stock in thin stream, stirring frequently with wooden spoon. You may need more or less liquid to get the desired thickness. When gravy is done, add some black pepper to it, pour it over the hamburger/egg and you have a mini loco moco!


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[ Currently Eating: Coffee ]

Sausage and Pepper Sandwich

Every time I walk around downtown L.A. there’s bound to be some guy pushing one of those hotcarts and selling either hotdogs or sausage and onion sandwiches out of it. I never tried one of those but I hear they can be really delicious if a bit sketchy on preparation and cleanliness.

They also have ‘em at chains like Jody Maroni… yeah I know comparatively weak next to all those great mom and pop sausage sandwich places. I’ve been to a few and have been wowed and disappointed variously. I think there are a lot better ones on the East coast…

I had some frozen Italian sausages in the fridge so I decided to try cook up my own Sausage Sandwich with Peppers. I was actually hoping it’d turn out better than the Sausage and Pepper Pasta that I attemped awhile back.

Sausage Sandwich with Peppers

2 Italian Sausages from large Costco pack — $1.00
French Bread (1/2 small loaf) — $0.12
Provolone Cheese (1 slice from Costco pack) — $0.10
Mayo (1-2 tbsp of $2.00 jar) — $0.08
1/4 brown onion, sliced — $0.15
1/4 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced — $0.12
Corn Oil (1 tbsp from $2.00 bottle) — $0.03
Salt / pepper / water — negligible

Total: $1.60

(If sausages are frozen, defrost them in 1 minute increments until thawed, turning them around after each interval)

Heat about 1/4-1/3 cup of water in a small nonstick pan. When bubbles form, place the sausages in there and cover with a lid and steam-cook them on medium heat until most of the water has nearly evaporated, about 10-15 minutes. Make sure to check them every so often. If the water evaporates too fast you may need to add more.

Meanwhile slice up the onion and pepper. When water is almost gone, remove the lid and cook until the water is gone. Flip sausages once and cook for a few minutes more. Flip several times more, until desired doneness is achieved (I like it when the outer surface is browned but not charred)

Remove to a plate to cool. When cool, cut the sausage into chunks (you can also keep them whole if you are using bread that is meant for sausages, like hot dog rolls). Toast bread if desired.

Add oil to pan on medium heat. Add onion and red bell pepper and cook until parts are slightly charred. Add the sausage and stirfry a minute or so. Sprinkle salt and pepper to taste and mix a bit. Push the mixture toward the center of the pan and place a slice of provolone on top. Cook it until the cheese melts. Mayo up the bread if desired. Take a large rubber spatula and scoop the entire mixture onto the bread. There’s your sandwich.


Continue reading “Sausage and Pepper Sandwich” …

5/27/05 | Bologna Fried Rice


[ Currently Eating: Bologna Sandwich ]

Bologna Fried Rice

I know what you’re thinking. Bologna in FRIED RICE!? Hey, open up your mind a little. After all, what is fried rice anyhow but taking a kitchen sink of leftovers that includes rice and cooking it up in a wok? There are a billion ways to make fried rice and since I tend to have a lot of leftover rice all the time (Asian family, hehe) in the fridge, inevitably this type of meal appears on the table every other week or so.

Most types of Fried Rice feature one or more “main” ingredients such as beef, pork, chicken, fish or shrimp. When I’m in a hurry and don’t have time to defrost and prepare these types of meats, I reach for the old standby, lunchmeat. I’ve made fried rice with diced ham, cooked chicken, turkey lunchmeat, hot dogs, and of course bologna. It actually is not bad for a quick meal.

One of the keys with fried rice is NOT to cook it in a wok, unless you’ve got an extremely high powered stove and the metal wok “holder” that lets you get high temperatures. I think I saw this on TV once… basically if you can’t get the wok hot enough it doesn’t distribute the heat as well or something. I think a non-stick skillet actually works fine and is less messy.

Bologna Fried RiceThe other issue I know is the type of rice. I actually like fried rice that almost tastes like a pilaf… in other words it’s more stuck together instead of individual grains. But you can do whatever you like. If you use American rice or Uncle Ben’s your rice will most likely be looser than if you use Japanese sticky rice which is what’s in my cupboard.

It’s also difficult to make fried rice with “new” rice straight out of the pot. I always use leftover rice (a big hint is to break up refrigerated rice prior to putting it in the pan!), but I think if you must use hot rice then you should cool it first by spreading it out on a cookie sheet and maybe popping it in the freezer or something…

By the way, since I stress leftover rice I’m going to call it free for the purposes of this recipe. See, leftovers are good!

Bologna Fried Rice

Leftover rice, about 2-3 cups (free)
Bologna (3 slices of $2.50 pack) — $0.30
1 egg (from $1.50 dozen) — $0.12
1/4 brown onion, chopped — $0.15
1/4 red bell pepper, chopped — $0.12
1/2 pkg chinese mustard greens — $0.12
1 green onion stalk (from $.40 bunch) — $0.05
1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeded and sliced — $0.05
Vegetable Oil (1 tbsp of bottle) — $0.05
Soy sauce (1.5 tbsp of gallon can) — $0.05
Fish sauce (1 tsp of $1.00 bottle) — $0.05
Sesame Oil (1 tbsp of bottle) — $0.07
Sriracha or Hot Sauce (1/2 tsp) — $0.05
Chicken stock (2 tbsp) — $0.03
Salt / pepper — negligible

Total: $1.16

Note you can easily omit any number of the wet ingredients if they aren’t available. Also for drier rice, use less chicken stock and a little more salt.

Mix soy sauce, fish sauce, sesame oil, sriracha, and chicken stock together in small bowl and set aside. Beat egg lightly in a bowl and add a pinch of salt. Chop up bologna and mustard greens.

Heat a large skillet for a few minutes on high heat. Add vegetable oil and fry bologna for 1 minute. Add egg and stir briskly with wooden spoon to make something like scrambled eggs. Add brown onion, red pepper, chinese mustard greens, and jalapeno. Stir fry this for at least 2 minutes, add a touch more oil if needed.

Add rice to pan and stir to combine ingredients. I like the texture of somewhat “crunchy” toasted rice so when combined I leave it sitting there spread out in the pan without stirring for a minute or so. Then I continue cooking for about 3 minutes.

Add the wet ingredients to the pan. I like to make a little well in the center of the pan and pour it right directly on the pan… I feel it stops the rice from becoming too wet. Mix the rice well and cook for another 3 minutes. If you like you can leave it sitting there to get some further crunch. Off heat add black pepper and salt to taste and serve while hot!


Continue reading “Bologna Fried Rice” …


[ Currently Eating: Coffee ]

Sausage Pepper Pasta CloseupI’ve gotta admit that this particular pasta I made didn’t turn out exactly as I thought it would be. Oh, it was edible all right. It just wasn’t as delicious as I pictured it in my head. I was sort of picturing a sausage ‘n peppers sandwich, but with pasta. Oh well… I had made up the recipe on the spot so that was predictable. But I guess that’s how we learn to cook stuff …

I use a lot of italian sausage in cooking; I’m not talking about the pre-cooked smoked sausage or kielbasa that you eat for breakfast or put in gumbo. This is the connected links style of uncooked sausage. I buy it in bulk and freeze it in portions of 2-3 sausages wrapped in plastic wrap so that I can take down just what I need. This recipe uses only 2 sausages:

Sausage Pepper Pasta

2 Italian Sausages from CostCo 30-pack — $0.50
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped — $0.25
Parmesan cheese (1/4 oz of $3.50 8oz can) — $0.11
Any Dry Pasta like Macaroni(4 oz of $0.99 8 oz bag) — $0.50
Leftover corn (1/8 of 1 can) — $0.06
Olive oil (1 tbsp of $4.00 12 fl. oz bottle) — $0.17
Butter (1 tbsp of $1.00 4 oz stick) — $0.13
Chicken Stock (1/4 a $.50 can) — $0.12
Parsley (1/4 cup chopped from $0.69 bunch) — $0.06
Salt / pepper — negligible

Total: $2.43

Start boiling a large pot of water. Meanwhile, defrost the sausages a bit if necessary. Take off the outer skins of sausages (that’s right, squeeze out the sausage meat). Get a pan going on medium high and add sausage meat, breaking up with wooden spoon. Cook until well browned. If you have caraway seeds in the meat, you’ll have fun little pop explosions every so often!

Remove the sausage meat to a plate and set aside. Add 1/2 tbsp olive oil to hot skillet and add bell pepper and corn. Saute for about 3 minutes. Turn up heat to high and deglaze the pan with the chicken stock and about 1/4 cup water, scraping well. You can also use white wine here to deglaze. Just make sure to cook it out so the alcohol evaporates. Cook that for about 5 minutes or so, you want it to thicken.

When water boils, salt it and add macaroni. Cook till al dente then drain (don’t rinse or sauce won’t stick to pasta). Add pasta to skillet and toss well. Add sausage, parsley, parm cheese, butter and 1/2 tbsp olive oil. Cook for about 1-2 minutes more. Off heat add salt and pepper to taste and serve.


Continue reading “Sausage and Pepper Pasta” …


[ Currently Eating: Soup ]

Chinese Rice PorridgeIf you haven’t had this type of porridge before, you may be a bit confused here. When I say porridge, most people think of that as the sludge that Goldilocks ate in the Three Bears’ house – some sort of oatmeal connoction for breakfast.

The porridge I’m talking about is made with rice, and can be plain (basically just rice and water), flavored (either sweet or savory), and contain various different things like stew beef, fish, tofu, vegetables, and pickled items. I live in a community that is predominantly Asian, so I actually see this all the time on menus. Sometimes it’s called porridge, but most frequently I see it listed as “Congee” in Hong Kong style cafes.

I believe there are 3 different kinds. I think that the Taiwanese version is cooked with sweet potatoes in it and the Mandarin (mainland China) version is completely plain with just rice and water. Most of the time people eat other savory side dishes along with the porridge since it’s pretty plain. But the Cantonese (Hong Kong) style version is actually pre-flavored with chicken or fish stock and often contains cooked items in it. Don’t quote me on all this, I think there is a lot of interchange in the styles…

As far as equivalents for other nationalities go, it seems to me like a really watery version of Italian risotto. Whatever it’s called, and whoever makes it, I really like rice porridge.

Some people also call this type of porridge gruel. It’s a way to stretch out rice, wheat, or whatever cooked grain you’d like. I really don’t like the use of the word “gruel”, because besides being associated with something that is fed to starving orphans it reminds me too much of the word GRUE. (For those of you that didn’t play Zork, this is akin to a really ugly troll that will eat you.)

It also sounds an awful lot like “cruel” which it most certainly is not. It is actually quite kind on the stomach. If you are not feeling to well, this is sort of the Asian equivalent of having Chicken Soup. I put a lot of ginger in it as well, which I think is supposed to help with stomach problems.

Ok, so I’m no expert at making this, but this is my version of the Hong Kong style pre-flavored rice porridge:

Chinese Rice Porridge

1-2 cups of cooked rice — $0.15
1 can Chicken Stock — $0.50
Brown Onion (1/8 a $.50 onion) — $0.06
Cilantro or Parsley (1/8 $0.69 bunch) — $0.08
1 inch square of ginger — $0.25
Salt / pepper / water — negligible

Total: $1.04

You will have to experiment with the ratio of rice to chicken stock in order to produce the type of porridge you like. The above proportions are just guides.

Peel and mince up the ginger and slice up the onion thin. In a medium sized pot pour in chicken stock and about 1 can worth of water and add the brown onion. Bring it to a boil and then let it cook for about 3 minutes more. Add the ginger and cooked rice to the pot, breaking up the rice with a spoon. Turn heat to low and let simmer for about 10-25 minutes, stirring every so often.

The amount of time here is dependent on how “glutinous” you want your porridge to be. It also affects the amount of breakdown in the rice. Some people also chop up the rice to get it finer. Also, be carefull not to add TOO much rice or you’ll end up with a mixture that’s nearly solid. In general, put in less rice than you think you need to, since the rice expands and the released starch will thicken the mixture further.

When you’ve got it to the consistency you want, spoon the mixture into a bowl, throw in the cilantro or parsley (I don’t usually eat this but it gives it a fresh flavor, omit it if you don’t want to) and add salt/pepper to taste and serve.


Continue reading “Chinese Rice Porridge” …


[ Currently Eating: Tea ]

Bacon Pasta Closeup
I nearly always have some bacon around, because it tends to last a little longer in the fridge (several months?) than some other lunch meats and because it is usable for flavoring many things. (I’m not going to get into any fights with you health nuts out there – yeah I know that bacon ain’t the best for your plumbing).

Many pastas that I end up making involve some sort of bacon. I think the important thing is that because it’s high in the flavor department, you can pretty much get away with using only TWO strips of bacon for a one serving dish of pasta. It stretches the bacon out a bit and will no doubt please people concerned with cholesterol or fat.

Quick Bacon Pasta

Two slices bacon (from $4.00 pkg) — $0.25
Any Dry Pasta like Macaroni(4 oz of $0.99 8 oz bag) — $0.50
Parmesan cheese (1/4 oz of $3.50 8oz can) — $0.11
Olive oil (1 tbsp of $4.00 12 fl. oz bottle) — $0.17
Butter (1 tbsp of $1.00 4 oz stick) — $0.13
Milk (1/2 cup from $4.19 1/2 gallon lactaid) — $0.26
Chicken Stock (1/2 a $.50 can) — $0.25
Brown Onion (1/8 a $.50 onion) — $0.06
Parsley (1/4 cup chopped from $0.69 bunch) — $0.06
Salt / pepper — negligible

Total: $1.79

Get a large pot of water going on the stove. Meanwhile, mince the brown onion and parsley and cut up the bacon into bite sized pieces. Fry the bacon in a skillet at low heat until extra crispy, remove to a paper lined plate and blot the oil. Set that aside for now, in the oven if you want.. I actually learned that taking it out of the pan and then adding it back only at the very end keeps the bacon more crispy. If you don’t care about that, you can leave the bacon in the pan and continue.

Drain off all but 1 tbsp or so of fat. Add 1/2 tbsp of olive oil. Add brown onion and cook for about three minutes or so on med heat. Turn up heat to high and deglaze the pan with chicken stock and milk, scraping it well. Sometimes I use a tbsp of vodka or white wine as well, but it’s not necessary. Reduce heat and simmer mixture for 5-10 minutes. You want it to thicken a bit. Watch out for the mixture foaming over though. You might need to add a bit of water and reduce heat.

When water boils, salt it and add macaroni. Cook till al dente then drain (don’t rinse or sauce won’t stick to pasta). Add pasta to skillet and toss well. Add parsley, parm cheese, butter and 1/2 tbsp olive oil if it’s too dry. Cook for about 1-2 minutes more. Off heat add salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle the reserved bacon on top and serve.


Continue reading “Quick Bacon Pasta” …




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