Thursday, September 24, 2009

Cheap Foods that Taste Good (really)
How to Eat Like the Economy Didn’t Tank

I don’t know about you, but when I’m broke my cooking imagination seems to fly out the window. Almost anyone can concoct a gourmet meal when the ingredients on hand are top quality, exotic, and perfect, but it takes a lot of imagination to make something delicious out of an onion, ground beef, some ketchup, and frozen burger rolls. Sloppy Joes anyone? Not that there’s anything wrong with Sloppy Joes, but after a few weeks of going through the cheap foods roster, I get pretty sick of the Ground Beef Hall of Fame.

Ok, so you’re really missing all those steak dinners and shrimp pastas you were eating eighteen months ago, right? At this point most of us are feeling the pinch, and it can take an enormous toll on the dinner table. When times are this tough, food at the may be one of the only enjoyable things you and your family can still afford.

I have seen more “Eat more for less!” articles than I care to remember, and they all seem to feature some variation of condensed soup, uninspired sandwiches, or cans of vegetables. In other words, completely uninteresting.

These are the recipes I reach for whenever I get the “not spaghetti again” feeling. For my first installment I’ve gone Asian, but they really are easy. They really are cheap. To top it all off, they are definitely not boring. Enjoy!

Thai Green Curry with Chicken & Eggplant
As exotic as this dish sounds, it’s really comfort food. It’s amazing how silky the eggplant gets, and the chicken seems to come out
perfect every time. My family loves it so much that it’s become almost a weekly dinner. You can make it as spicy or mild as you want, just alter the amount of green curry paste. Serve with plain white rice and set out Asian chili paste & fish sauce for people to adjust to their taste.

2 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 jar ready-made green curry paste
1 1lb. Package boneless skinless chicken breasts, sliced thin across the grain.
1 large eggplant, cut into ½ inch cubes
4 cans (16 oz.) coconut milk
1 tbsp sugar
6 large leaves fresh basil, torn

Heat vegetable oil n a 6 qt. stockpot over medium heat. Add the curry paste, and stir until it starts to smell good. Add sliced chicken breasts, stirring to coat. Add diced eggplant. Keep stirring until the chicken begins to turn opaque and the eggplant absorbs some of the oil. Add the coconut milk and sugar (you can add more sugar if you want); bring to a simmer. Turn the heat to low and cook for about 20 minutes. Add the basil and remove from heat. Serve in bowls with a scoop of rice.

Asian Beef & Scallions
One night when I was really craving Chinese take out and just could not afford it, I decided to try to make Mongolian Beef. Authentic it’s not, but this is the delicious result. You can replace the skirt steak with flatiron steak, top round, or sirloin, just slice it thin! Serve with plain white rice and Confetti salad.

¼ C. soy sauce
2 tbsp. sesame oil
1 tbsp. orange juice or lemon juice
1 tsp. crushed red pepper
1 tbsp sugar
½ tsp Chinese five spice powder
1 - 2 lbs. skirt steak, flat iron steak, or top round (whatever’s on sale) sliced thin across the grain
1 tbsp. Vegetable Oil
1 bunch scallions, cut into 1 inch pieces

Mix together first six ingredients. Add the steak and stir to coat, then set aside to marinate for about 20 minutes. Drain steak, reserving marinade. Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add the drained meat, stir frying until meat is browned. Reduce heat to low and add reserved marinade. Bring to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for five minutes. Serve over rice.

Confetti Salad
Easy and interesting, this salad can turn anything into a feast. It tastes even better the next day. Just think of it as Asian coleslaw!

¼ C. Mayonnaise
1 C. bottled ginger dressing
1 bag pre-shredded cabbage
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
¼ C. peanuts, chopped coarsely

In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise and ginger dressing. In a larger bowl, mix the cabbage and peppers. Add the dressing and stir to coat. Sprinkle peanuts over the top.

*Note: Until my camera is fixed or I get a new ones, I will only be using stock type photos. I will do my best however to find ones that look like mine!


  1. A good resource for Thai (especially when they have sales): take a look at You can get big orders of pre-made red, green, yellow or gourmet "masaman" curry sauces-- they'll do 3 or so meals per package and they keep forever (18 months unopened in the pantry, or freeze them after opening). Green and red are my favorite. It's a larger splurge upfront but I think it pays in the long run; maybe go in on a bulk order with a friend to defray the shipping costs?

  2. Very cool, thanks! Green curry is absolutely one of my favorite things.

  3. Have you tryed adding olive oil to the pizza dough it make it light and crispy