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Your guide to eating cheap including tips, recipes and techniques

[ Currently Eating: Portagee Sausage ]

Hello. Howzit.

To be honest – and when am I not honest – I’ve had a hard time reverting back to non-Hawaiian-vacation mode. Sitting on a beach in a tropical paradise will do that to you.

To be completely honest – I was trying to think of what kind of post would take the least amount of effort and brainpower. I’m still on Hawaii-time and the old bastard brain is not really functionallying correctly.

To be completely, absolutely honest – I would like to end this post right now and run back to the islands. I would set up a shack selling Cheap Eats of Hawaii.

To tell you the absolute, unequivocal, daring, honest truthfully truth – I have run out of ideas. What, you no like?

So here are some words and pictures of fish from Hawaii, and their resulting crispification (this is probably not a word, but I honestly challenge you to refrain from googling it with your itchy trigger finger).

I’ve been a fisherman since birth, and come from a long line of ancient mariner fisherpeoples (Gramps was a well-known handline angler in Hawaii – picture Hemingway’s Old Farking Man and Da Sea). So when I say that catching your own fish for food qualifies as Cheap Eats material, you should believe me.

Honestly, would I tell one lie? Cherry trees, I goin chop ‘em.

There is a large, large issue with catching your own fish – and that is, in most states you’ll need an (expensive) license to fish. Then there are all sorts of boring regulations and limits and size requirements to follow. I’m not even going to tell you how much the California DFG regulation book weighs. Holy crap, I can’t believe the amount of restrictions there are.

And trust me, DO NOT take above the limit and please follow all the farking regulations. Speaking from experience, would you like to know how much the fine is for not having a license or taking more than your limit?

Let me tell you, it is quite a bit more than a speeding ticket.

But in Hawaii – there is no license (no marine license, that is – I believe you need a freshwater license). The limits and regulations are nowhere near as restrictive as the mainland. (By the way, a lot of residents moonlight as commercial fisherman – you just need a $50 commercial license, and you’re ready to go. Sign me up.) And there are obvious “pollution” aspects from chemical factories here in Cali that don’t really exist in Hawaii (well, ciguatera was an issue for awhile.)

It’s a farking fisherman’s paradise. No bulai.

And it makes “subsistence fishing” very, very attractive. My uncle in Hawaii, who is a retired semi-famous chef (no, not Sam Bok Choy), actually says that nowadays, he’ll just go down to the beach in the morning and catch a few fish for dinner. I think a lot of people do that, or if not, damn they should.

Everything is expensive in Hawaii, especially if you’re a tourist. But if you live there, you can get by just catching your dinner and picking fruit.

Trust me, would I lie or exaggerate greatly to da max?

We actually went down to the beach twice to fish – once to try catch some hagi (triggerfish), and the other time it was at night for delicious upapalu (a type of cardinalfish). No luck on the hagis, but we did catch some moana (goatfish) shown in the photo at top.

But then, our nice neighbor brought over some menpachi (u’u, or soldierfish) that were leftover from his commercial fishing venture. Nice guy. Menpachi are a pretty popular fish around here.

Menpachi have a distinct smell, so you really gotta fry ‘em. No boil or steam the buggahs. Also, try watch the bones. But ho, they ono.

We fried em up outside the house fo’ prevent da kine stink. Ono, with light beer and smiles all around. Uncles and aunts, all talking story.

[Editor's Note: This post was brought to you by honesty and Hawaii. Much Mahalo-ness to you. I am sure that I've over-simpified fishing in Hawaii versus fishing in California. I'm sure there are other ramifications and hidden cost of living issues. I'm sure the grass is always da kine greener. However, I just want to say that if you gave me a choice, I'd choose fishing in Hawaii. One of my fondest memories is handlining uku with dad and grandpa from a small boat off the Kona coast. I don't even know if that's possible any more.]

9/12/10 | Chicken Meatballs

[ Currently Eating: The Big Island ]

Well, seeing as I have to skedaddle (and just try looking up where that word came from), let me leave you here with a picture of chicken meatballs on sticks. I’ve been trying to find a good recipe for them, along with a non-sweet sauce to dip them in, so let me know if you know of one.

Actually, wait a couple weeks to send your recipe. That’s cause we’re skedaddling off on vacation. Where we’ll go, no one will know. Or actually: try wait we going go. I come back bumbye. I would elaborate, but I’m afraid of further butchering the language.

We’re hitting the mothership. Well, one of the motherships. Perhaps a half or quarter mothership, or just an adoptive mothership in theory, but one that has a special meaning anyhow.

This post has been brought to you by the words “skedaddle” and “mothership“.

What, pau already.

[ 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.]

8/24/10 | Yellowtail Sashimi

[ Currently Eating: Non-Salmonellized Omlette ]

Breaking news flash: Over the past couple weeks, I’ve finally started to slightly enjoy sashimi, i.e. raw fish.

And it only took me 38 years.

This will certainly help with my J credibility. I’m sort of an “egg” – or is it a banana? Still heavily anti-wasabi but I’ve slowly come around on the raw fish thing. I guess it doesn’t hurt that this is probably the freshest yellowtail sashimi I’ve ever had – it was probably swimming (minding its own fishy business) around 2 days ago. I know, because my dad caught it – or rather, caught like 15 of them.

This is not an isolated incident.

Maybe I took it for granted, but we’ve always had this kind of fresh fish. If it wasn’t my dad or relatives, it was his friends. I still live with this crazy fish-flinging culture that’s always been more the rule than the exception. “Oh, you’ve been a great friend – here, have a whole albacore tuna.”

I still remember high school friends being bug-eyed at an enormous 7 pound plate of sashimi. Oh, I understood how much it would cost if you bought it at a sushi shop. Probably hundreds of dollars. I could only smile and nod, while secretly wishing for a big plate of fried chicken with a side of mac and cheese instead .

Hard knock life, eh?

I mean, I could eat a piece if I was forced to. I just didn’t see why it was so great. Since it was so expensive, I felt it was my sacred duty to abstain from eating as much of it as I could so that other people could enjoy it. More for them. Imagine your parents own a saffron farm, but you really don’t like the taste of saffron. Now replace “saffron” with “sashimi”, “farm” with “catch”, and re-order the words around variously and welcome to my world.

I know: sux to be me.

Something in my brain, maybe an anti-sashimi brain slug, has caused me to take a pass on raw fish for all these years. I don’t know what it is, but suddenly I’m sort of OK with a few pieces. Maybe all the Jack Daniels we’ve been sampling at Friday night’s dinner-with-the-folks has finally neutralized (or pickled) the anti-sashimi brain slug.

In any case, I’m also sorta proud that I actually sliced up the sashimi shown above from a huge slab of the yellowtail. Just call me Morimoto.

Nothing else to report today.

Move along.

[Editor's Note: No anti-sashimi brain slugs were hurt in the making of this post. Some slabs of yellowtail, however, were slightly mangled.]

[ Currently Eating: Leftover Spaghetti ]

Well, well, well.

Looks like we’re back to frozen food reviews. I’m wondering, what do all the food reviewers out there do to keep their editorial efforts fresh and exciting? Do they attach electrodes to their nipples and hope for a little inspiration-zap from the car battery?

Yes, I said nipples. You know you like it. Woo.

Nipples have nothing to do with pot pies, but it certainly makes for a better intro than “This pot pie was pretty good I guess.”

We’ve reviewed a few different pot pies on Cheap Eats previously, most notably the Marie Callender Pot Pie and the Swanson Turkey Pot Pie. Those frozen selections are pretty far apart on the Pot Pie Scale – sort of like comparing apples and oranges. Or pot pies and nipples.

Hey. I promise you this – I will continue to make the potpie-nipple comparison repeatedly throughout this review. I will take it to new heights. Or lows. So if it bothers you, please pack your bags now. My sincere apologies to all you mommybloggers out there looking to cash in on the lucrative online food review market, who happen to come across this review. I promise I’m not usually a creep.

The 7 oz Banquet Chicken Pot Pie I picked up for a buck at the market seems to be related more to the Swanson type that I reviewed. However, there seemed to be a world of difference in the end result. I actually thought that this Banquet pie was much more cosmetically beautiful. And I DID make it in the microwave, the same one that I used to nuke the Swanson pie.

The instructions say to slit the top crust, so I made several cuts in the top. By the way, you may want to try making a slit in the crust with your nipple. If you do, please let me know about it, because the Guinness Book of World Records has an entry for Longest Slit Made Into A Pot Pie Crust Using Only A Nipple.

Wow, that sounds like terribly like Pr0n.

I’m thinking back and I can’t remember if I made slits in that Swanson pie or not. If I didn’t, maybe I’ll have to revisit the Exploding Pot Pie Due To No Slits theory. It’s like the Big Bang, only with more Pr0n and chicken. In any case, the Banquet pie came out beautifully golden brown. I was almost afraid to eat it, because it looked so nice. Like The Golden Brown Nipples of the Sun. No leakage from the nipples, er, pot pie, and the crust looked pretty nice.

OK, so looks aren’t everything. This pot pie was TREMENDOUSLY salty. OMG it was salty. Salty Nipples, he gratuitously said! Looking at the label on the back, it says that it provides a good 43% of your recommended daily intake of sodium.

America – this is why you’re fat.

It was difficult to get beyond the salty taste, but I have to say the crust was surprisingly nice. It wasn’t flaky like the Marie Callender pot pie, but it’ll suffice for a dollar pie. The chicken was spongy, at best. Not bad chunks of it, but it was definitely lurking in the un-delicious spectrum.

The carrots were OK. The potatoes were OK. The random green-speck-of-something-or-other? I have no idea what that is. I don’t think it has anything to do with green nipples, but man, I just can’t figure out what it could be.

By the way, I will pay anyone $75,000 if you can give me a picture of a green nipple. Kidding, of course.

Overall, I guess I was surprised by this pot pie, in the way that random nipples from Alyson Hannigan popping up joyfully all over the place might cause one to be quite pleasantly surprised. I would definitely keep the Banquet Chicken Pot Pie in the freezer for an “End Of The World Scenario”. But then again…. at the end of the world, I should hope that people of all persuasions and sexual orientations should free their nipples from the oppresive shackles of bras and shirts and pasties and pot pies forever and forever and ever…

Price: $1.00 for 7oz
Found At: Fresh & Easy
Cheap Eats Score: 5/10

[Editor's Note: I know you would like to feel better about yourself, so I will just say that I have very hairy nipples. See? Get down off that ledge. It confuses me why hair will grow joyfully around my nipple areas, but refuses to sprout on the top of my head. This is definitely discouraging to say the least, and results in my having to trim the nipple area of 2 inch long hairs every so often. Oh, by the way, no Nipples or Pot Pies were hurt in the making of this review.]

7/28/10 | Chicken McNuggets

[ Currently Eating: Mushroom n Egg Bread Thingy ]

I could see this becoming a really bad habit.

No, not the McFuggets. Er, McNuggets. I mean these short Just Because posts. They are oh-so-easier to write than longer “normal” product reviews.

I wonder if this is the way down – the way a semi-interesting, semi-humorous, semi-famous blog slowly sinks below the sea of Blogspots and Facebook walls.

Or, I wonder if this is the way that 5 year old food blogs survive. Short and sweet with gratuitous links to old longer posts.

Ah well, just McFuggetaboutit.

I took full advantage the other day of the 20 piece Chicken McNugget deal for $4.99. But seriously how can a nearly-40-year-old, processed-chicken-starved food reviewer resist them? How, I asks ya?

I actually really like McNuggets, though I know it’s partly to do with me getting brainwashed by Happy Meal commercials in the early 80s.

That’s 1980, young guns. I mean young’uns.

I just wanted to see how many McSnuggets I could eat in one sitting without feeling queasy. The answer, surpisingly, is 14. Surprising, because I thought I was far, far more gluttonous (gluttonousy?) than that.

Looks like there’s a glimmer of hope for curtailing that ever-increasing waistline after all…

[ Currently Eating: Hot Weather, Hot Dogs ]

Um yes. A Bacon Wrapped Hot Dog.

I ate this while sitting in my underwear.

You know, how do you say, just because.

P.S. – this will be a new Cheap Eats category, where I just put up any old picture with minimal text. Just because.

Have a nice bacon wrapped day.



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