Cheap Ass Monday: Hot as Hell Cucumber Salad

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Pretty.

Apparently, I don’t spend ENOUGH time on the internet, because I’m adding a new feature to TNS: Cheap Ass Monday. My grocery bills have, uh, been nudging ever so slightly upward for the past few months; I have no idea why that might be. No matter the reason, I need to figure out a way to offset some of the more obscene Smackdown costs, and I know lots of us are looking for quick, less expensive meals so we can save our money for blowout trips to the French Laundry. Or, you know, to pay the mortgage or utility bill (thanks a lot, heat wave).

So Monday will no longer merely be “Monday” but “Cheap Ass Monday,” where we endeavor to make a tasty dinner for two gluttonous adults for $5 or less. Play along at home! The rules are:

  • You (me) have to actually MAKE dinner out of actual whole, fresh ingredients. The Wendy’s 99-cent menu does not a Cheap Ass Monday make. I mean, technically it does, but that’s not gonna fly around here.
  • Normal pantry items that right-thinking people should have in their homes (salt, sugar, olive oil, etc) do not count toward the $5 limit.
  • I am the arbiter of what constitutes a “normal pantry item” and reserve the right to stretch the definition thereof in order to meet my self-imposed dollar limit.
  • Some Mondays may be skipped without prior notice if I am feeling lazy.

Cheap Ass Monday kicks off with a refreshing, raw cucumber and peanut salad. Not only is it too hot in New York to even think about entertaining the idea of considering turning on the oven, it is also too hot for humans to effectively digest complex foods. Also, the knobs on the stove may well be too hot from the ambient temperature to touch; I can’t say for sure because I didn’t want to chance it.

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In which people get the animal fats they want and deserve.

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All cow fat, all the time.

Let everyone’s collective panties be unbunched: tofu doesn’t live here any more.

I’m not giving up on integrating more vegetarian or vegan meals into my repertoire, but I am giving up on frankenfoods like tofu. It’s still not in the same category as truly unearthly “foods” like quorn, but my kitchen doesn’t need it. Healthy vegetarian foods are easily assembled using whole, fresh ingredients.

That’s not what this is about, though. Well, at least the “healthy” part: this is real deal mac and cheese, the kind made with a classic butter-and-flour roux, milk that has been expelled from a real live cow and not extruded from a bean of some kind, and a shit-ton of cheese. And it feels GOOD, SO GOOD, right up to and including the moment that the final particle of arterial plaque settles in your carotid artery, stopping all bloodflow to the brain.

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Thursday Night Smackdown: Wherein I Fail to Learn a Lesson

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Another mistake, or a deliberate refusal to learn?

I’ve been wanting to start cooking more vegetarian meals; we’re definitely a little meat heavy*, which is both pricey and not super great for us. I’ve got the Moosewood book and Patricia Wells’ Vegetable Harvest, the most butter-and-cream heavy veggie cookbook I’ve ever seen, and I recently picked up a copy of Veganomicon. It’s a vegan cookbook, and I freely admit that while I had read good things about it, I bought it mainly for the title. Because who doesn’t love Evil Dead II? “Give me some sugar, baby.”

I thought I’d use the book this week because I knew I’d be eating a giant hunk of filet mignon at a gala event Wednesday night. Also because I have not learned my lesson about tofu (although as with the mac and cheese, it was not the tofu that doomed this dish (not that the tofu helped)). So: vegan moussaka.

If you don’t want to read about vegan moussaka, I’ll sum it up for you using Brian’s description of the meal: “Tofu? Tofucked.” And I promise animal fats up the wazoo next week.

*Understatement.

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I scream, you scream, we all scream for….pie.

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Save the fork – there’s pie!

I’ve been seeing pictures of this strawberry pie from the most recent issue of Gourmet all over the place lately, and it calls to me like a siren. The deep ruby filling. The plump berries. The crisp crust. The billowy whipped cream.

PIE.

I finally got around to giving it a go last night, albeit with some alterations. The whole process was quick, easy and painless, leaving me with very little fodder for a post other than pretty pictures of strawberries, not that there’s anything wrong with that. Thus, in the interest of amusement, I present you with the first ever Mad Libs Blog Post. Get out a pen and paper, call your co-workers ’round call your friends ’round during non-work hours only, and write this post! Maybe you’ll get the real answers at the end! Maybe not!

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Smoke-a-Thon 2008: Porc a la Mode du Caroline du Nord

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Is everyone tired of pork yet? Not a rhetorical question.

We come now to the final installment of Smoke-a-Thon 2008, semi-classic North Carolina-style pulled pork with my in-demand potato salad as your special bonus with purchase. I’m not sure what I’m more tired of doing: eating pork, editing pictures of pork, looking at leftover pork or writing about pork, so I’m a little relieved that we’ve come to the last chapter.

Note, however, the bacon exception: I am not currently, and do not foresee ever being tired of eating, photographing or writing about bacon. I’m fairly certain that the bacon exception is a categorical imperative for all humankind except for freakish vegans who put tofu in their macaroni and cheese. Not than I am judging.

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