Monday, June 13, 2011

Cheap Bastid’s Foodie Tuesday Skillets, Pasta & Rice Flour

Well it’s been a while since the Cheap Bastid took to the keyboard to write about good food and saving money. The biggest reason has been that while I’ve been cooking a lot, I haven’t been working on new recipes.

And when it comes to finding cheap food, it’s been getting harder and harder. You see, my brain works a bit funny. I don’t see an increase in the price of bottom round from $1.99/lb to $2.49 a pound as a 50 cent increase. I see it as a 25% increase. And that bugs me.

I’ve even gone so far as to do all the anal retentive mental math on milk. You see, I’m the only one around here who drinks milk. I drink about ¾ of a gallon a week. So, I have to do a couple of things. First, I have to take a close look at expiration dates. Nothing’s worse than slurping up that first bite of Fake Cheerios with sour milk. Talk about a taste experience! And I don’t mean that in a good sense.

So, the question is whether I should buy a gallon of milk or a half gallon and a quart. At the grocery store, a half gallon is now about $2.29 and a quart is $1.79—that’s “store” brand milk, “brand” name is even higher. OK, so that puts me at $4.08 for a half gallon and a quart. But, I can buy a full gallon for $2.99 of “value time” milk. Now, I hate to waste food and I know that most of the time I’ll end up dumping some of the gallon down the drain as it goes “bad”. But, hell-o-Pete, I can do that simple math. Do I spend $2.99 or over $4?

Yeah, I know that some of the “goodie two shoes” out there will say to freeze the left over before it goes bad. Good idea, but my freezer is full. Damn full. Mrs. CB thought it was a good idea to stock up on $1 packages of pepperoni at the dollar store. We’ve got $14 worth occupying a big chunk of available space.

So here’s something I came across recently—in the “International Foods” section of our local Stater Brothers I came across pasta made in Mexico. It’s 3 for $.99 and comes in a 7 ounce bag. Regular “store” brand pasta is $1 for a 16 ounce bag and Barilla is about $1.50 for 16 ounces. Well, I can do that math. $1 for 21 ounces.

And there’s another one too. I stumbled across “Harina de Arroz” made by Tres Estrellas. It’s Rice Flour from Mexico. 17.6 ounces for $1.49. The “regular stuff, made in Japan is $2.49 for 16 ounces. And I can do that math too. Now, I don’t use rice flour all that often but occasionally we like to do a “tempura night” or it’s also pretty good when added to regular flour for fried fish or even chicken fried steak.

So look around, I bet you can find some good deals like this too.

So how about a little cooking? On days when I’m home in the morning we’ll often do a late morning “skillet” breakfast. These are really good—you know, kind of like the skillets you get at cafes or “Denny’s”—except cheaper.

Yep, this is country food. It's plebian. It's proletarian. It's the kind of food I like to eat. If it's not pretentious enough for you, then that's too bad because you'll be missing out on something good.

Here’s how I do it:

Cheap Bastid’s Skillet Breakfast

4-6 ounces sausage links
2 medium potatoes
3 eggs (stirred)
1/3 cup chopped onion
1 chopped fresh jalapeno pepper
1 chopped Roma tomato
Handful of shredded cheese

First do your prep work (fancy cooks call this “mis en place”). You can either cut the potatoes into about ¼ inch cubes or do like I do and quarter each potato and then cut them into about 1/8” thick slices (Mrs. CB and I have this debate every once in a while & the cut of the ‘tater makes not difference to cooking it, it’s just a matter of cook’s preference). Dice the onion, jalapeno and tomato—I also did a small handful of fresh cilantro that I had in the fridge. Leave the sausage frozen and cut it into 1/8 inch thick “coins” (or just throw in whole into the skillet when you add it and break it up as it cooks.

Put a medium skillet on the stove turned up to medium high (about 4 o’clock on the dial). Add a squirt of oil (actually I add about a tablespoon of bacon grease that I keep in a jar in the fridge). Then toss the potatoes into the pan and spread them out in one layer.

Let these cook up for 5-8 minutes flipping them over at least once. Then add the onions, jalapenos and sausage “coins”. Get these cooking too. Add some salt, pepper and garlic powder. When they’re all browned up, turn the heat down to 6 o’clock. Now add the tomatoes and stir. Give ‘em a minute or 2 and then add the eggs. Stir, stir, stir to set the eggs and then toss in that handful of shredded cheese. What kind of cheese? Any kind you want. Whatever you have. Or none at all if you don’t want to.

Add toast or biscuits and you’ve got a pretty good breakfast feast. Now this doesn't make for a gorgeous plate--that's for the "foo-foo foodies"--but's it's sure tasty and that's all that matters.

This will stick to your ribs and get you a good old country one skillet breakfast from start to finish in about 30 minutes.

The Cheap Bastid Test: How cheap is this? Pretty cheap. Let’s see I used about 50 to 75 cents worth of sausage—let’s call it $.75. The potatoes cost about $.35, the jalapeno cost about a dime and the onion was another dime. The tomato about $.35. Three eggs cost $.30 and the cheese about $.50. So let’s add it all up and we’ll come up with $2.45 for 2 people (and it can stretch to 3) for a big hearty breakfast, early lunch or even “brinner”. These are about $7 at a restaurant. Breakfast is almost always a bit labor intensive, but to me cooking is always a great way to relax and think about something other than all the other crap going on in the world for a little bit.

That’s the Cheap Bastid Way: Eat Good. Eat Cheap. Be Grateful!


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