Cheap Ass Mondays: Re-inventing a Clichè

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Do you listen to Aimee Mann? You should, she’s really good. I have spoken.

For the second installment of Cheap Ass Mondays, I bring you variation #999,999,998 on rice and beans: Mexican-ish stuffed peppers. Can you really have a feature called “Cheap Ass Mondays” without featuring rice and beans at least 30% of the time? I’m still new here, but I’m guessing you can’t.

These peppers appeared regularly on my table back in my vegetarian days (August 6th and 7th, 2000). Yes, I was once a vegetarian, for about four years. It will come as no surprise that sausage, my Scylla, and bacon, my Charybdis, wrought the downfall of that halcyon time. Although I’m now an unabashed carnivore and committed to eating meat in a more ethical, organic, sustainable way – although I’m not always successful – I would like to bring some vegetarian favorites back into rotation for the health of both wallet and gut.

I don’t know why hot, humid weather makes me want Mexican food; maybe I figure that as long as I’m already drenching through my clothing, I can’t get any more gross and I may as well go for the full-on sweat-fest and eat spicy food. I just know that I want it, and these peppers fit the bill. Fast, versatile, cheap, filling and tasty.

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Ice Cream for a Dead Man

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Passionfruit, to be specific. But dead people don’t eat ice cream, so it just means more for me.

I just wrote a whole post about this ice cream and my dad, who was my best friend and who passed away in 2005. It was really good, filled with humor, pathos, and brilliant photography. Do you have any idea how hard it is to take pictures of fricking ice cream?  I’ll tell you: really fucking hard.

And then WordPress ate it.

Father’s Day is rough enough as it is and I can’t bring myself to sit here and re-write it, but I don’t want to deprive anyone of delicious, delicious ice cream. So recipe after the jump, and my apologies for the lack of real post.

ETA: Okay, okay, here’s a tidbit. So I have my dad’s high school yearbook from 1951, and each graduate’s photo is accompanied by a painfully wholesome description: “Jimmy is sure to be a great asset to the Army,” “Susan always has a ready smile and a helping hand.” My dad’s? “Rudy is a treat for all the ladies.”

Awww, yeah.

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Thursday Night Smackdown: It had a really good personality

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John Stewart: the bald spot is growing, but he’s still damn funny.

So a few weeks ago I randomly left a comment on a post at Serious Eats, the result of which was my being randomly chosen to receive a copy of Paula Disbrowe’s Cowgirl Cuisine. Paula is a French-trained New York-based food writer who removed herself from the big-city rat race to live in Texas, cook on a ranch and write a cookbook filled with pictures of herself. I know we’ve all wanted to flee our humdrum existences to live a life of leisure surrounded by goats in the Texas Hill Country, where “Texas Hill Country” is read as “Tuscan villa” and “goats” as “Italian supermodels.”

Seriously, there are a LOT of pictures of her in the cookbook. And not pictures of her cooking or engaging in Texas-type activities like riding horses, erecting homemade border fences or driving to Mexico for cheap over-the-counter pharmaceuticals; that would make too much sense. Just pictures of her standing around, lying in fields and, I shit you not, stripping down to go skinny dipping (don’t get excited, you can’t see anything).

Anyway, despite all the auto-photography and the terrible, terrible title, I bring you: shrimp-stuffed poblanos with walnut sauce and classic cornbread.

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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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