Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Poor Man's Shrimp Curry & Rice

We've been dying to use shrimp in something since we now have several pounds of it, thanks to us buying some last week and Daren's dad bringing us a bag last night in his special delivery. We had been kicking around the idea of a shrimp butter sauce thing over penne, but at the last minute, Daren decided this was a better idea.

There is no curry powder or sauce in this dish at all, however, it is the same consistency and basic flavor of a curry, thereby making it Poor Man's, since we threw a dish together and called it something it's not but could possibly if we had the proper ingredients. Add Poor Man to it and you've got yourself a mock meal.

As a note: Daren would normally make this with coconut milk, but since we had none of that as well, sour cream had to make do. In the event we would need to use sour cream again, we would not use the lime. There was too much of a sour flavor.

  • 1 cup rice
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • half cup peanuts
  • 1 tablespoon peanut butter
  • about 15 shrimp
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sour cream
  • 1/2 cup water
  • squirt of sesame seed oil
  • squirt of sriracha
  • garlic
  • pepper
  • basil
  • pinch of salt
  • half lime (optional)
  • sauce pot with lid
  • skillet with lid
As mentioned previously, follow the directions on your bag of rice since there are a variety out there. For ours, we added 1 cup of dry rice and 2 cups of water with a bit of salt and a pat of butter. Our bag recommended 1/4 cup butter, but I used about 1/8 due to not wanting to cut open a new stick and having an 1/8 just sitting around.

Let the rice, water, butter, and salt come to a full boil on high heat. Once there, lower the heat to about a 3 or 4 and let simmer for 20 minutes or until all the water has disappeared from the pot. When the water is out, remove the pot from the burner and set aside for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and test to make sure there are no straggling hard pieces.

Shrimp Sauce
Put the shrimp, frozen or thawed, into the skillet with all the ingredients. The concoction will break down as it starts to warm; use about a 5 heat level. Stir occasionally, making sure the main ingredients and spices are mixing properly. Once it has combined, raise the heat to 7 and put the lid on. Let it simmer until it's fully bubbling. If the mix is too thin, add a pinch of corn starch at a time until it's at the desired consistency.

Serve over the rice.

This meal provided enough for one serving each with a little bit of rice leftover. The grand total was $4.03.

  • rice 37¢
  • butter 4¢
  • peanuts 35¢
  • peanut butter 10¢
  • sour cream 29¢
  • shrimp 3$
  • half lime 15¢

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Beef Stew & Mashed Potatoes

Just when you get in the groove up coming up with easy, simple, and tasty meals, someone goes and throws a monkey wrench in the finely tuned engine and gives you a bunch of free food. I mean, how dare they?!

Actually, I'm kidding.

However, Daren's father made a special delivery this evening of a turkey, a 10lb bag of potatoes, as well as many other thoughtful, unexpected tasties. So instead of a basic meal like we normally have, we went in a slightly different direction. Beef stew and mashed potatoes. Except, the bag of meat pulled from the freezer was not beef, but rather pork. So pork stew and creamy mashed potatoes, just like ma makes.

beef stew
  • 1 lb. pork (use beef)
  • 2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
  • 1 carrot, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream
  • pepper
  • garlic
  • basil
  • sage
  • squirt of sriracha
  • 1/4 teaspoon corn starch (optional)
mashed potatoes
  • 3 medium potatoes
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • salt
  • pepper
  • skillet
  • sauce pot
  • colander/strainer
  • potato masher or hand mixer
Beef Pork Stew
For frozen pork (beef), put the meat and water into the skillet to begin cooking on high heat. As the pieces begin to break apart and change color slightly, add vegetables and spices. Continue to cook at high heat, monitoring the water level. If need be, add more to maintain half an inch at all times -- this is the base for the gravy. Add soy sauce. Lower stove to about a 7 and let simmer to allow pork (beef) to thoroughly cook. By this point, the gravy should be forming. Add sour cream for additional flavor and to thicken the stew.

If the gravy is still not thick enough to your liking (some people like it watery, some like it stiff), add a pinch or two of corn starch at a time. This will thicken it considerably. Put on low heat to continue simmering.

Mashed Potatoes
We used Russet potatoes for this batch, but honestly, any will do. I recommend peeling Russets since their odd texture can lead to unsatisfactory mashed potatoes. Yukon Gold or Red Potatoes can keep their skins. Peel the skin off. That is, from the potato, not your finger, like I did tonight. Cube the potatoes, no bigger than one inch, no smaller than 1/2 an inch. Put them in a large enough pot with about 2 inches of water over the top of the pile of potatoes. Add about 2 tablespoons of salt, or do as I do and just dump the salt container on its side for about 5 seconds. Put the stove on high heat.

Let potatoes come to a full boil. Once there, use a fork (or other impaling utensil) to grab a potato and test it for tenderness. If it's still a little tough to bite into it, if there's a bit of resistance, they need longer to boil. On the other hand, if it's nearly melt-in-your-mouth, they're done. Remove the pot from the stove and drain water. Return the potatoes to the pot and add the pat of butter and half the amount of milk. Use the hand mixer or the potato masher to start working the ingredients together. The consistency you are looking for is light, fluffy, and very much stuck together. You will see in the beginning that they look a little crusty, like what instant potatoes look like when you first add water. Continue to add milk in small portions until they are full of creamy life. You may need to use more than recommended, just don't drown them. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve the pork (beef) stew over the mashed potatoes.

This beautiful little deal fed the two of us with small seconds and an extra mouthful of mashed potatoes for a grand total of $3.92.

  • pork 1.99/lb
  • celery 22¢
  • carrot 20¢
  • soy sauce 5¢
  • sour cream 35¢
  • onion 15¢
  • potatoes 70¢
  • butter 6¢
  • milk 20¢

Beef Ramen

There's a bit of cheating going on tonight. We went out for dinner last night for our anniversary and I got steak. Said steak didn't get finished at the restaurant and followed me home. Daren ate his leftovers for lunch and I figured steak was too good for a midday meal. I was a little torn on what to do with the 7oz of pure bliss I couldn't finish last night and kicked around a couple ideas before settling on a bulky Ramen dish. That's right, Ramen. Cheapo, sodium-filled Ramen.

As a note, the fried pieces sprinkled on top were a crapshoot and do not deserve a nod in this post. Deep fried steak, no matter how tasty the homemade breadcrumbs are, should not exist.

  • 7oz top sirloin (optional)
  • 2 packs Beef Ramen
  • 1 celery stalk, thinly sliced
  • 1/8 onion, thinly sliced
  • small chunk of fresh ginger
  • 5 cups water
  • 1/8 cup ginger teriyaki sauce (optional)
  • pepper
  • garlic
  • squirt of sriracha (optional - used purely for spiciness)
  • soup pot
Dice up celery, onion, and ginger. If there are other vegetables available like carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, etc., feel free to add them. I just used what we had in the fridge. Put into soup pot with thin slices of steak and the 5 cups of water. Use only one and a quarter of the beef flavor packets provided in the two bags of Ramen. Any flavorful sauce would work if available; we bought a bottle of Jake's Ginger Teriyaki Sauce from a bakery outlet last week and I figured beef + ginger = winning combination. However, the minimal amount I put in did not lend much in the way of flavor so the broth will not be entirely lacking without it. At this point, add the sriracha. One small squirt is more than enough to flavor the whole pot.

Let come to a full boil on high heat. Add dry Ramen noodles and break apart. If you've never cooked Ramen before, it really does only take about 3 minutes like advertised on the packaging. Once the noodles are to desired state, pull from the heat and serve.

A side note: this recipe can be doctored to any specific taste with any meat or vegetable.

The grand total of this meal which fed two, with no leftovers, was $0.68. This obviously does not include the price of the steak, but even without the meat, this is something we have when nothing else sounds good. It's hearty without meat and it's filling.

  • Ramen 31¢
  • celery 11¢
  • onion 4¢
  • ginger 2¢
  • sauces 20¢

Sunday, November 15, 2009


This is a breakfast meal that I grew up on. Sunday mornings, mom would throw together the ingredients and feed the four of us. To this day, I've turned many people on to the easy, awesome dish and it's by far my favorite breakfast. Admittedly, up until recently, I didn't even know how to spell "migas", but managed to stumble upon an article that explained a little about the meal.

It's a traditional dish in Spain and Portugal, using ingredients such as day old bread or tortillas. What you see here is the Tex-Mex version (there's that phrase again...) that uses corn tortillas, eggs, and choice of meat. Mom used ham, and normally I do too. But on this day, not a scrap of ham was to be found in the apartment.

  • 4 eggs
  • 5 corn tortillas
  • 1 Italian sausage
  • 1/8 cup vegetable oil
  • salt
  • pepper
  • garlic
  • cayenne pepper
  • basil
  • 5 or 6 jalapeƱo slices (optional)
  • bread for toast (optional)
  • 2 skillets
  • spatula
The most important thing to remember when making this dish is that prep of all the food items must be done before cooking commences. Once the food is in the skillet, there's very little time to cut up anything.

Cut the tortillas in half and stack the halves on top of each other. Slice the tortillas in 1/2 inch strips; they should be long and thin. Then cut them the opposite way, making little square or rectangular chunks. Put them off to the side.

As previously stated, we normally use Oscar Mayer boiled ham, but since we neglected to pick any up at the store, we used sausage, since we like meat in our meals. Of course, meat is entirely optional and a simple egg/tortilla/veggie dish is just as tasty. If you choose to use ham, cut it up the same way as the tortillas. Long thin slices, then cut perpendicularly into little chunks.

Crack the eggs and add the spices.

Cut up any additional veggies you want to add. My mother uses green onions and jalapeƱos for a nice flavor kick. The traditional dishes tend to have tomatoes, cheese, chile peppers, and onions. Just remember, the more you add to it, the more egg you may have to use since it's an encasing ingredient that binds the other components. Think of it like an omelet. Add the veggies to the eggs.

In our case, using the sausage, we chopped it up into small bite-size pieces and threw it into a skillet to cook with pepper, basil, and garlic.

Pour the oil into the second skillet, or preferably one with a clean bottom. If you cooked sausage, do not use the left over oil/fat from the pan. You want just enough oil on the bottom to lightly coat the tortilla pieces, but not absolutely saturate them. Doing so would make them soggy and harder to crisp. Heat the oil on medium. Our old stove liked a 6, this new stove likes about a 4. Toss a single tortilla in. If it sizzles immediately, it's time to move on. Add the tortilla chunks in slowly. Push them around to make a thin layer at the bottom. Let them fry, occasionally stirring and flipping the pieces over. The point is to make little crunchy bits. If you see that some are starting to burn, lower the heat and continue to flip.

Once the tortillas are golden (or slightly burned like we like 'em), throw in whatever meat you chose to use. Let the meat heat up, now constantly stirring the tortillas/meat because you don't want it to burn. Add the eggs/veggies and turn the mixture until it's thoroughly cooked. It will start to break up as it cooks, so don't worry about that, or attempt to keep it in one flat omelet-like state. It's supposed to be crumbly. Translated, migas means "crumbs".

We like our migas with toast and in my case, with a little raspberry Freezerves jam.

The special breakfast on this wonderful day, our 1 year anniversary, cost a grand total of $1.50 to feed two with no leftovers.

  • eggs 44¢
  • corn tortillas 20¢
  • Italian sausage 54¢
  • toast 32¢