Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Five Dollar a Day Challenge - Day 5

Bonnie provided the fixings for a couple of tasty sandwiches, and after a quick lunch we headed off in search of adventure in the Cuyamaca wilderness.  You never really know what you are going to find when you head out on the trail, but this little hike ended in something completely unexpected.  Somewhere near the top of Japacha Peak, on the eastern side, was one of the strangest monuments that I have ever encountered.  We set off on the West Side Trail, and after about a mile came to a marker for something called the Monument Trail.  After following this uphill for about a mile and a half, we entered a little clearing where somebody had dropped a 12 cylinder airplane engine! It was mounted on a stone and concrete pedestal, with a plaque that read, "In Memory of Col. F.C. Marshall and 1st Lt. C.L. Weber who fell at this spot Dec 7th, 1922."  A hive of bees had made their home inside of it, and they were buzzing in and out of an exhaust port.  The monument itself is a little piece of early aviation and military history - and it was a pleasure to find this by accident.  I would like to give credit to Mr. Alexander D. Bevil for writing a wonderful piece about this mysterious chunk of metal that is enshrined on a lonely and forgotten trail in the backcountry of San Diego.  You can click the quote below to see the full story.   

"Neither monumental nor imposing, the Airplane Crash Memorial on Japacha Ridge is a simple expression of three generations’ honor and respect. First in 1923, then again in 1934 and 1968, they built and improved the monument so that 'the present and coming generation' would honor the memory of the two pioneer military aviators who died on this spot while flying outdated machines through treacherous skies over forbidding terrain."

One thing that a nice long uphill hike will do, is make you hungry.  Feeling a bit nostalgic-like, I decided on making some Sloppy Joes.  This ended up putting over my budget for the day, as one pound of ground beef costs about $5 now, and that is just way too much.  Add the buns, Manwich sauce, and tater tots - and I was well into the next day's cash allowance.  I decided to try to conserve a little bit of money and use ground pork instead, since it was leaner and cheaper than beef.  Sloppy Wilburs, I called it.  While everybody involved agreed that it is better when you use beef, Bonnie still ate two sandwiches while I had three. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Five Dollar a Day Challenge - Day 4

While the blackout was great fun (and the hangover was not) - there was an unintended consequence that put a bit more challenge into my menu.  All of my perishables became untrustworthy....and this was a real burden!  I had some left over chicken and blue corn posole, broccoli mac and cheese, spiced potatoes, and other odds and ends that would have been turned into a couple of really nice meals!  Well, they were all gone.  In the morning, I had no yummy leftovers for lunch.  I keep a big jar of home made instant oatmeal at my desk (it is easy to make with quick oats, raisins, cinnamon and sugar and powdered milk) and that was good enough to keep me going through the morning, but when lunchtime hit.....I caved. 

30 minutes later (thanks for losing my order McDumbasses) I had 20 nuggets and two spongebread and beef sandwiches, slathered with ketchup and mustard and laced with one thin, warm pickle.  Total cost - $7.  I didnt feel too bad about the cost, since I spent no money the day before during the blackout - but I did feel a bit sad that all I got for that money was a pile of empty calories.  McPoop.

For dinner, I salvaged what was left in my freezer - a box of pork breakfast sausages and half a bag of frozen mixed vegetables, and combined that with a can of tomato puree that was buried in the larder to make somekind of "Mulligan Sauce".  I used a bag of thick rice stick noodles and pretended that it was fettucini.  The dish resembled something that was Italian, but really, it was nothing more than an "impasta" masquerading as real food.  I didnt care for it too much, but it was better than my McLunch - and Bonnie gave it at least one weak nom, so.......we live to eat another day.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Five Dollar a Day Challenge - Day 3 - The Great Blackout

Some people may say that it is crazy to carry around a dozen MREs in your trunk with you wherever you go (MRE = Meal Ready to Eat).  Perhaps it is a little bit cynical, apocolypsist, pessamistic, paranoid, or just plain silly to assume that there are going to be nuclear disasters and zombie emergencies that will require an emergency food supply. it?  So, when the lights go out in your town, what is the best thing to do?  Thursday, September 8th will forever be remembered as The Great Southern California Blackout, for more than just the shutdown of the electrical grid from Orange County to Tijuana.  For many, it will be remembered (or not) as the day that there was nothing better to do than get drunk!  Hey, let's face it....everybody was ready to use the "my alarm clock wasn't working" excuse to ditch work the next day.  So, like many others in my building, I headed to the pool.  My building did have emergency generators, and I have to hand it to them, they have their priorities....the jacuzzi still had power.  The party quickly turned into a devil-may-care affair as people emptied out the liquor cabinets and beer coolers.  After several hours of debauchery, it became painfully clear that there was not going to be anything to eat because my stove and microwave all requred electricity.  In addition, since there was no sense in even trying to go to the store, it was looking like I was going to have some trouble spending my $5 for the day.  I decided to expand my list of possible resources to include my trunk....where about 10 MREs have been stored, just in case.  I suppose that necessity drives people to do things that they would not normally do - and Bonnie had her first taste of military rations.  They heat up nicely with the water activated heating pouch.  She gave them a "not bad....not good, but not bad".  It's nice to know that, in case of a nuclear viral zombie outbreak, the food is not half bad.

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Five Dollar a Day Challenge - Day 2

Day two was really a winner, as I served up a couple of dishes that really went well together.  I did my shopping at Ralph's, admittedly, a rather expensive store.  I think that you can get much more out of your dollar if you shop around for things, and I will do this in the future to see how it goes, but since this supermarket was next to the video store, and my movies were two days late, I decided to try it out.  I really didn't get all that much for my money, but I planned on using some of the leftovers that were in my fridge and larder to supplement the meal.  I bought a red onion, 8oz of shredded Mexican cheese, and a broccoli crown.  It came out to a little over $4.  I shredded up two old chicken breasts, mixed it with some diced red onion and rolled it up with the cheese in some lightly fried tortillas that were on the verge of getting moldy.  This was then covered in green enchilada sauce, topped with cheese and popped into the hot oven.  To accompany this, I cooked a box of generic brand shells and cheese, and added the steamed broccoli crown.  The result was a match made in heaven!  And there was a ton of leftovers for lunch the next day!  Bonnie seemed to agree with this dish, and promptly cleaned her plate. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The 5 Dollar a Day Challenge - Day 1

I really dont know where all of my money went.  Well, OK, that is not true - it all went to pay bills, and somewhere along the way I may have dropped some of it into a beer glass.  Well, that's not the point.  The point is that I have approximately $50 to last me until the next pay day....10 days away. 

So, I posed the question on Facebook - what would you eat if you had to live on $5 a day?  Of course, you could always do what my friends suggested, such as eat a $5 Footlong from Subway every day, or fill up on pasta and beans.  Really?  That's no way to live, and certainly no way to eat.  While I may be inclined to add some of these choices to the menu, I do not intend to live on these things morning, noon, and night.  I will do my very best to create astounding cullinary marvels using only what I have left in my larder and fridge, and half a sawbuck per day. 

Day one involved cleaning out some leftover tidbits that were in my fridge, so I guess that technically, I was cheating a bit since I already had two nice fillets of rock cod chilling out.  But, I made good on my $5 commitment at the grocery store, and I picked up 2 big tomatoes, 2 red jalapenos, 4 brown onions, a bunch of spinach, and one cup of wild rice mix in bulk.

I browned 2 of the onions in some olive oil, and added thin slices of the red jalapeno, cooking until everything was soft.  Then I put that aside, chopped and sauteed the spinich, adding a bit of garlic salt, then the diced up tomatoes and added them when the spinich was almost done.  I put that into the colander to drain off the excess water.  The filets were seasoned and grilled with a bit of olive oil in a very hot pan, searing one side.  Once the fish was almost cooked through, I covered it with the browned onion mixture, then the spinach and tomato.  Removing the pan from the heat, the dish cooled for about 5 minutes before being served.  The vegetable covered fish was served on a bed of wild rice mix.  I got two HUGE portions, one for me, one for Bonnie (the official critique gastronomique du nom nom).  

Well, day one was a sucess.  I met my financial goal of only spending $5 dollars - but I have to admit that I had some help.  Some might say that I cheated - since I already had the fish in my fridge, but hey, those are the rules.  Anything that I have stocked up already (including leftovers) is fair game.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

El Perro Peligroso - a.k.a - The Danger Dog

Falling out of an all-you-can-drink tequila disaster in the wee hours of the morning, head steaming with sweat, neck covered in lip gloss, and beach sand in my shoes (how did THAT get there) has always brought back fond memories.  While it may be impossible to re-live my late teens, I can, as it has sometimes been said, live vicariously through food.  Enter.....the Tijuana Danger Dog.  Tiny little brown women, slowly grilling tiny little brown dogs, from tiny little white carts positioned strategically outside the club exit door pull in sweaty teens with the wafting odor of grilled onions and bacon.  When you've been filling your stomach with cheap tequila and beer (and subsequently emptying it in the urinal), nothing....and I mean nothing...makes you feel whole again like a bacon wrapped hot dog, TJ style.

The Method:
This is not complicated.  You wrap a hotdog in bacon.  Use a toothpick to secure the bacon while it crisps up around the weenie, then you remove the pick and brown all around.

The Madness:
This is where things get a little bit scary.  The dog must be dressed in the proper fashion, and this means that it has enough fat to re-line your previously decimated esophagus.  The bun is smeared with mayonnaise (an absolute necessity) and mustard.  Because I'm already going all the way here, I melted a small piece of cheese on my dog.  It is then topped with grilled onions, ketchup, and hot sauce.  A bit of pickled jalapeno is optional, because after all, you don't want it causing trouble while you are waiting in line to cross the border.

The last thing anybody is worried about as you file out of a rocking place like the legendary "Club Safari" are calories.  More important things are on your, "was that her real phone number?"  Word to the are only young once.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The final foods of 2010

Here are just a few pictures of the last few dishes of 2010.  At a recent dinner party, we feasted on cheese, olives, grapes, bacon wrapped chicken livers (rumaki), braised short ribs, roasted Brussels sprouts, risotto d'oro, and mai tai's made with a very tasty Venezuelan rum.  I had a quick lunch of dungeness crab and beer, and later made some lump crab cakes.  My resolution this year is to document more of the delicious foods, and take more pictures.  I am looking forward to a great new year, and I am hoping that my friends and family will join me to be a part of the dinner celebrations that I am planning for the future!