BrokeAss Gourmet

BrokeAss Gourmet

White Cheddar Queso Dip

  • Prep Time 0:05
  • Cook Time 0:10
  • Estimated Cost $7.50
  • 10 Comments

Happy Cinco de Mayo! Let's explore a May Fifth classic, shall we?

See, I love the idea of queso dip (essentially melted cheese), save for the fact that it's typically made with uber-processed cheese (think Velveeta), which gives it its super-creamy texture. Well, I think uber-processed cheese tastes like melted plastic and I refuse to eat it.

So, I decided to make it better. I make a simple roux, and then stired in creamy, nutty, delicious white cheddar.

I also swirled in a little chili powder and salt. You could certainly customize yours by adding things like chopped chipotle chilies, cumin, or a little fresh jalapeño.

The resulting dip: thick, creamy, cheesy queso that totally beats the fake stuff. Try it on tortilla chips for ballpark-style nachos, drizzled over grilled beef and corn tortillas for Southwest-ified tacos, or even atop a bowl of hot chili. And the best part? It reheats like a dream.

Note: Feel free to use regular yellow cheddar if you prefer.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons butter $1 for a stick
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour Pantry
  • 1 cup whole milk or half-and-half $1.50 for a pint
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded white cheddar cheese 3.50 for 12 oz.
  • 1/2 teaspoon (or more to taste) chili powder $1.50 for 1 oz.
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (or more to taste) Pantry

Recipe Serves 6-8

Directions

  1. Melt butter in a medium pot over medium heat.
  2. Whisk in flour and cook, whisking throughout, for 1 minute.
  3. Gradually add the milk, whisking constantly, until a thick sauce forms (this should take 6-7 minutes).
  4. Melt in the cheese, whisking constantly, for 1-2 minutes and season with the chili powder and salt.
  5. Let cool for 5 minutes, then serve warm, garnished with more chili powder if desired.

 

IPA Baja Fish Tacos with Mango-Avocado Salsa

  • Prep Time 0:30
  • Cook Time 0:06
  • Estimated Cost $16.50
  • 9 Comments

Beer-battered fish tacos are a classic. They’re typically made with a light beer, such as Corona, but I’m a much bigger fan of darker, hop-ier IPA’s. My IPA batter resulted in crisp, flavorful pieces of firm red snapper, which I nestled into soft corn tortillas with a bright, delicious salsa. Feliz Cinco de Mayo!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 lb red snapper fillets (2-3 small fillets) $3
  • 1/2 cup i.p.a. beer (I like Big Daddy or Lagunitas) $3 for 32-40 oz.
  • 2/3 cup flour plus more for dusting fish Pantry
  • salt Pantry
  • vegetable oil for frying Pantry
  • 1 avocado, diced $1.50
  • 1/2 red onion, diced $0.50
  • juice of 1/2 lime $0.50
  • 1 mango, diced $1
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, diced $1
  • 1 small bunch cilantro, chopped $1
  • 1/2 jalapeño, seeded and diced finely $0.50
  • 6 corn tortillas $1.50 for 30
  • 2 tbsp crumbled cotija cheese $3 for 4 oz.

Directions

  1. Combine beer, flour and a pinch of salt in a bowl. Whisk until a smooth batter is achieved. Set aside.
  2. Cut fish into 3" pieces, removing small bones if possible. Pour a little flour onto a plate. Lightly dredge fish pieces in flour, shaking off excess. Set aside.
  3. Heat about 1" vegetable oil in a deep skillet over high heat. Move floured fish and batter near the stove. Dip the floured fish pieces into the batter, ensuring each piece is fully coated and excess drips off. Fry fish pieces, a few at a time, until golden brown and crisp on one side. Use metal tongs or a metal spatula to flip them and cook on the other side. Remove carefully and drain on paper towels.
  4. Combine avocado, mango, onion, lime, jalapeño, cilantro, tomato and a pinch of salt. Stir to combine.
  5. To assemble tacos, top each corn tortilla with a few pieces of fish, a couple of large spoonfuls of salsa and a sprinkle of cotija.

Makes 6 tacos.

Tempeh Avocado Banh Mi

  • Prep Time 30 minutes
  • Cook Time 6 minutes
  • Estimated Cost $10
  • 0 Comments

I'm no stranger to the banh mi game. These delicious Vietnamese sandwiches are readily available in most cities, and are a long-time favorite of the broke-but-discerning foodie. Traditional banh mi are made on soft white French rolls, slathered with mayonnaise, and layered with thinly-sliced, marinated and grilled meats, and topped with fresh and pickled veggies.

Here, I break the rules a little bit. I made these on whole wheat rolls (though you are welcome to use any bread you like--I've even wrapped these up in tortillas), and I swapped out meat for yummy grilled tempeh. Have you had tempeh before? It's a little funny looking when you first take it out of package, but it's made from marinated soybeans and has a really pleasant, nutty flavor. Like tofu, it's happy to soak up the flavor or whatever you put on it, and plays nicely with whole grains and vegetables. The marinade and cooking method in this recipe transform this rather bland-looking block of soy into crispy, flavorful love nuggets.

And the key to this sandwich's cohesion and unbeatable flavor?

2-ingredient spicy mayo. It's just chili sauce and mayonnaise, but boy is it more than the sum of its parts. The chili sauce cuts through the mayo's creaminess, making it a perfectly balanced condiment for this perfectly balanced sandwich.

Feel free to get creative with the veggie toppings. Fresh chilies, kimchee, sliced jicama--even mango would all be good here.

And whatever you do, don't forget the napkins. This is one saucy bad boy.

Ingredients

  • 1/8 cup soy sauce or tamari Pantry
  • juice of 1 lime $0.50
  • 1 clove garlic, minced Pantry
  • 1 tablespoon honey or sugar Pantry
  • 1 1" piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced $0.50
  • 8 oz. tempeh, sliced into 3" strips $3
  • 4 tablespoons regular or vegan mayonnaise Pantry
  • 2 teaspoon Asian chili sauce (or more to taste) $1.50 for 8 oz. 
  • 4 6-inch rolls (whole wheat, sourdough, French--whatever. Buy in the bulk bakery section of the grocery store for the lowest price) $2
  • 1 ripe avocado, sliced $1.50
  • 1 carrot, shredded $0.50
  • 1 cucumber, sliced very thinly $0.50
  • 1 handful fresh cilantro $1 for a bunch

Recipe Serves 4

Directions

  1. Combine the soy sauce, lime juice, garlic, ginger and honey or sugar in a medium bowl. Whisk until incorporated.
  2. Add the sliced tempeh to the bowl and let marinate for at least 20 minutes (up to an hour).
  3. While the tempeh marinates, whisk together the mayonnaise and Asian chili sauce. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  4. To cook the tempeh, heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat.
  5. Fry the tempeh for about 3 minutes on each side, until golden-brown and lightly crisp on the edges. Remove from heat.
  6. To assemble the sandwiches, split each roll lengthwise, leaving the seam intact, so it opens like a book.
  7. Divide the mayonnaise mixture between the 4 rolls, spreading it on both of the internal sides of each one.
  8. On each roll, layer tempeh, avocado, cucumber, carrot, and cilantro. 
  9. Serve sliced in half with more chili sauce on the side.

Matzo Kugel with Spinach and Goat Cheese

  • Prep Time 0:15
  • Cook Time 0:40
  • Estimated Cost $12
  • 3 Comments

I first made this for a Seder led by my friend Dana to rave reviews, but then went on to find myself craving it, even long after Passover had ended. It's kosher for Passover, but it's so delicious that I make it throughout the year, accompanied by a salad and maybe a roasted vegetable for a quick vegetarian dinner.

Fresh feta cheese, or even cream cheese can also work in place of the goat cheese.

If you keep kosher and you want to serve this with meat, simply skip the cheese, and use almond or soy milk in place of regular milk. It will still be delicious.

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus more for the pan Pantry
  • 1 medium onion, chopped $0.50
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped Pantry
  • 2 carrots, grated $0.50
  • 4 cups (packed) fresh baby spinach $2
  • 1 cup milk (any %) $1.50 for a pint
  • 4 eggs $1.50 for 6
  • 4 sheets plain matzo, crumbled into 1/2" pieces (or use matzo farfel) $2.50 for a 16-oz. box
  • 1 tsp each salt and pepper Pantry
  • 1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese $3.50

Recipe Serves 6

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. 
  2. Lightly oil a 9"x11" casserole pan and set aside.
  3. In a large frying pan, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat. 
  4. Add the chopped onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes, allowing it to caramelize.
  5. Increase the heat to medium and add the garlic, carrots and spinach. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the spinach has completely broken wilted. 
  6. Remove from heat.
  7. In a large mixing bowl, combine the milk and eggs. 
  8. Whisk until completely blended.
  9. Pour the crumbled matzo into the milk-egg mixture and stir well. Let sit for 5 minutes.
  10. Pour the cooked vegetables into the milk-egg mixture and stir a few times to incorporate. 
  11. Add the salt and pepper and stir again.
  12. Scrape the entire mixture into the prepared casserole pan. 
  13. Top with the crumbled goat cheese and push down slightly, allowing it to sink in.
  14. Bake for 24-28 minutes, or until set and golden-brown on top.
  15. Let cool slightly before cutting into squares and serving.

One of the most gratifying things about being a food blogger is hearing from a reader that my blog helped solve a problem. Whether it's that someone needed the perfect dish to bring to a party and found the winning recipe on my site, or a reader who previously felt he or she didn't have the skills or money necessary to cook well at home, and then found recipes on BrokeAss Gourmet to overcome that, I get all warm and fuzzy when I hear I was able to make a difference in someone's culinary life.

In that spirit, I'm excited to introduce to you a new feature here on BrokeAss Gourmet: #DearBrokeAss, wherein I attempt to help solve your food and cooking dilemmas. Read on for some of the queries I received this week.

Got questions? I want to help you out! Email gabi@brokeassgourmet.com, or Tweet them to me with the hashtag #DearBrokeAss

Dear BrokeAss,

I'm trying to follow the Paleo diet but I keep struggling with lunch options. Sandwiches, burritos and wraps are so easy to make in the morning when I'm rushing out the door, whereas paleo bag lunch options seem daunting. What is an easy-to-make, Paleo lunch option that I can pack for work?

- Jeremy in San Francisco

Dear Jeremy,

I totally relate. The truth is, if you're on any diet that minimizes refined carbohydrates, your grab-and-go options become seriously diminished. Cut out all grains, as on the Paleo diet, and you're looking at even fewer options. But don't worry, there is hope.

One of my favorite low-carb, grain-free substitutes for bread or tortillas is nori seaweed, the kind used to make sushi. It can be found in nearly all grocery stores, usually near the soy sauce.

I fill it with all kinds of things, like cooked fish, leftover grilled chicken or beef, vegetables and avocado. It's especially good rolled around kimchee, beef and avocado. 

You might also consider roasting a whole chicken on Sunday night and taking pieces of it, along with a container of mixed greens to work for healthy, tasty low-carb salads throughout the week. The key here is just a little bit of planning and shopping at the beginning of the week. Get that done, and then you'll be set for a week of easy, healthy, good-tasting lunches. 

                                                      *** 

Dear BrokeAss,

Green smoothies cost like $10 at my local juice shop, so I tried making one at home and it was bitter and super chunky! Eating your smoothie is no fun, and eating a not-good-tasting one is even less cool. What gives? How can I make healthy green smoothies that taste good and are actually smooth?

- Helen in Brooklyn

Dear Helen,

I love green smoothies! Such a delicious way to get lots of healthy greens into your diet, especially if the rest of the day's eating has been less than stellar. But yeah, $10 is pretty steep for a beverage, especially considering you can make it at home for a lot less.

The key to combatting the bitter flavor is to balance out bitter greens like chard or kale with a little bit of sweet fruit. I like blueberries and banana (the latter of which helps yield a creamy smoothie texture as well).

And for a really smooth smoothie, you're going to need to let your blender work hard. I start by combining about 2 cups of roughly chopped kale or chard (leaving the stems on is fine) and 1 cup liquid (I like almond or coconut milks, but juice, water, soy or regular milk will work too) and let it blend for at least 30 seconds. 

Then I add my fruits one at a time, and blend thoroughly to ensure a super creamy consistency. I also taste as I go, and adjust the texture using more liquid as needed. You might also consider getting a cool to-go cup (I like this one, from Aladdin) since smoothies are so great for taking on the run.

                          

                                                       ***  

Dear BrokeAss,

My husband and I are mediocre cooks at best. This wouldn't be a big deal, except for the fact that our two children are extremely picky eaters, and we are losing our minds attempting to get them to eat any vegetables other than mashed potatoes. Any tips for convincing our 4 and 6 year-old kids that there is good food beyond boxed mac and cheese? Family dinners at our house are starting to get ugly.

- Jessica in Minneapolis 


Dear Jessica,

Ugh, how challenging. I'm sorry you're dealing with that! But alas, as you probably know, it's fairly typical for children to be picky and vegetable-averse. Most of them eventually grow out of it.

Meanwhile, it sounds like your problem needs 2 solutions for 2 separate but related issues: one for the immediate (how can you get vegetables into your kids' diet without a fight tonight?) and one for the future (how can you help your kids become people who elect to eat vegetables for the rest of their lives?). 

My first piece of advice is to look at foods they already eat that you might be able to sneak vegetables into. You mentioned they love mac and cheese, so perhaps your plan of attack for dinner tonight should be homemade mac and cheese made with whole wheat pasta and some unsweetened, pureed pumpkin added to the cheese sauce. They'll never know it's there, and pumpkin is a great source of Vitamins A, C and E, as well as fiber.

From there, try making pizza at home with lycopene-rich tomato sauce and veggie toppings.

My second piece of advice is to include them, as much as possible, in your family's food preparation process. Take them to the grocery store and let them pick out a few foods (including vegetables) for you to eat together. Include them in your menu-planning. Let them help you measure, stir and taste as you cook. Often, when they helped make the meal, even the most stubborn of children will willingly try a taste. It may be a slow-going process, but it's a worthwhile one. Good luck!    

Got tips to add? Share 'em in the comments!