Thursday, January 31, 2008

But I wanted to make gai pad bai gaprow!

What is up with basil?

I've been to four different grocery stores in my town and haven't found any. At all. None. Not even among the horrendously overpriced organic herbs sealed in little plastic package containers that scream, "Look at me! I am a healthy, eco-friendly sprig of herbs in a plastic box that will sit in a landfill until the end of freakin' time!"

I'm beginning to think that it would be easier for me to find certain black market plants.

I had a hydroponic basil plant last summer. I had to hunt all over, but I finally found him in the Giant near my mother's house. I adopted him and took him home and my mom named him Basil (you know, with the short "a"). Basil was a loyal friend, always giving of himself and asking nothing in return, just so that I could make bruschetta, or margherita pizza, or pasta salad. And he grew so big and tall!

Unfortunately, I left poor Bas behind when I moved out of my mother's house.

I have never missed him more than I did on Sunday night, which I decided was a fine night to make gai pad bai gaprow. Neither the big-box grocery store nor the Trader Joe's had any basil. Monday night, I looked at the Giant across from the university. Tuesday night, I looked at the Safeway in Old Town. By then, I was fed up and grabbed a bunch of cilantro. The chicken was already thawed and would have gone bad by the next night anyway, so I figured I'd use cilantro and see what happened.

So, what happened? It was disgusting, or at least I thought so. The Mr. at all of his, and then he ate the rest of mine. The sauce tasted nothing like that at the Thai restaurant where we always eat (and where we ate the following evening, because I wanted my gai pad bai gaprow and, by damn, I was going to have it).

But that's neither here nor there.

I would love to make bruschetta for the movie night I'm having tomorrow.

Oh. Yeah. I can't.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Espiral Vinho Verde

Drink this wine. Seriously. Go to Trader Joe's and buy it and drink it with dinner.

I think I paid about $4 for it, so I half-expected it to taste like bum wine. Wrong! This is not a bum wine, friends, this is a bargain.

It's crisp, sweet, and a little bit fruity. It's got just a little bit of carbonation, but not as much as your average sparkling wine. I found that it was perfect chilled with some broccoli-cheddar strudel (thanks, Rachael Ray!) and spinach bread. It. Was. Delicious.

Now, go forth and booze some more.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Only Quesadillas You Will Ever Need. Seriously.

To start off, here's a how-to guide for the quesadillas that earned me about a billion Cool Girlfriend Points from The Mr. and his friend. All "measurements" are approximate, because I know how much I like, but I don't know how much you like. Love cilantro? Add a whole ton. Or leave it out if you hate it. That's the fun of cooking: it's all intuitive.

You're Gonna Need:
- 1 can of black beans
- 8 0z or so of pepper jack cheese
- 1 smallish red onion (buy the big mesh bags to get a wide variety of sizes for all your oniony needs) or 4 or 5 scallions, diced
- several jalapeƱos, to make about 1/2 cup when diced and seeded
- 2 serrano chiles, seeded and diced (leave 'em out if you don't want the heat)
- 4-5 large flour tortillas
- about 2 tablespoons of chopped cilantro
- juice from 1 lime
- 2 garlic cloves, minced or run through a press

Putting it All Together
Drain the black beans and put them in a largish bowl. Use a fork to mash them against the side of the bowl, so that they're chunky but spreadable. Add the onions, jalapeƱos, chiles, cilantro, garlic, and lime juice and mix it all up.

Heat a skillet over medium heat. Lay one of the tortillas in the skillet and spread a small amount of filling over half of the tortilla, making sure to leave about 3/4 inch between the filling and the edge. Careful not to use too much, or the quesadillas will gush all over later when you slice them. Sprinkle some cheese on top of the filling and fold the empty half over. Let it cook until the bottom is browned and crispy, then cook the other side. Make more quesadillas until you've used up all the filling.

When the quesadillas have cooled a bit, slice them up with a pizza cutter. Serve them alone or with salsa or sour cream for dipping, if you want. Enjoy the gratuitous praise and pretend it was a lot of hard work to make them.


Welcome to The Budget Foodie! Are you overworked, underpaid, and tired of eating like you still live in a college dorm?

Eating better doesn't have to be expensive! It doesn't even have to be very difficult, although sometimes a Kitchen Challenge can be fun. All you need is a love of eating and a hunger for something tastier. If you have a sense of how to improve what you've already got, you're on the right track (come on, you've put shredded pepper jack cheese and chopped scallions on those crummy microwave burritos, right? Or at least some frozen stir-fry veggies in that Ramen?).

Here's where you'll find all kinds of tips, tricks, recipes, budget wines that don't taste like bum wine, and ideas for nice dinners in (because you know you're tired of paying mumbley-mumble bucks for a Nice Dinner Out).

So, put down the take-out menu and step away from the TV with your hands up! You can cook, too! Just, you know, don't ask me to promise that you can cook without burning the place down. I'm still working on that myself.