Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Best Grilled Cheese Sandwich Ever

Not really cheap, though.  Sorry.


  • Rye bread: Get good rye bread.  Here in Fort Smith, we buy Pepperidge Farm Seeded Rye unless Dr. Skull had baked some lately
  • Brie: again, get good Brie
  • Softened butter.  Use real butter, not marge.  I'm begging you. Have it at room temperature.

Use about two ounces of Brie for each sandwich.

Cut it up.  Cut off the fuzzy white crust, whatever the hell that is, I don't even want to know.  Feed it to the dog.

Put the soft white innards, the good bit, into the microwave for about 11 seconds, just enough to gooey it up.

Schmear it on one slice of rye bread.

(If you're that kind of person, you can schmear a little mustard in here too, or add a slice of ham.  But purists like just the cheese.)

 Cover with another slice of rye bread.  Schmear the outside of both sides of the sandwich liberally with softened butter.  Really get it on there -- you want it pretty thick.

Fry in a frying pan, like your iron skillet or whatever, at medium to medium high heat, until both sides are crispy brown.

Better than crack.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Shepherd’s Pie

This one is neither especially cheap nor especially easy.  It’s very tasty, though, and both your kids and your grumpy, picky, rich-kid husband will probably like it. You can use either beef or lamb, and you can use any sort of beef or lamb.  Traditionally, left-over bits of meat get used – it’s a way to use up scraps of meat – but I usually buy whatever cut of meat is cheapest and cut it into small cubes.

  • About a pound of meat (beef, usually)
  • Some olive oil
  • One onion
  • A couple cloves of garlic
  • A little flour
  • One carrot
  • Two stalks celery
  • Some thyme, some rosemary
  • A cup of cooked peas
  • A cup or two of chicken broth
  • Maybe half a cup of Marsala wine (the good stuff) -- maybe more.
  • Salt, pepper 
  • Four or five potatoes
  • Milk & butter to mash them with with
  • About a half cup of your favorite cheese, grated (sharp cheddar works well)

First, dice the onion pretty fine.  Cook it in the olive oil over medium low heat in your biggest skillet (I use my big iron skillet) while you cut up the meat.  You want the meat in small pieces – about the size of beans, or a little bigger.  

Put the meat in with the cooking onions; stir it all with a wooden spoon.  Turn the heat up just a little so the meat will start browning.

Smash the garlic and cut it up pretty fine.  Put it in with the meat.  Stir some more.
Scatter a tablespoon or so of flour over the meat and onions and garlic.  Stir some more.

Peel and cut up your carrot.  Slice your celery.  Add both of these to the mix.  Now add the broth.  Stir some more.  Add some Marsala.  Stir.

Add your thyme and rosemary.  I use fresh because my local store sells fresh really cheap, and the fresh stalks are easy to pull out after.  Dry is nearly as good, so feel free to use that.

Add a little salt and pepper.  Don’t over-salt.

 Cook for about 40 minutes, stirring pretty often.  If the broth gets too thick, add some water and maybe more Marsala.

After 40 minutes, check to see if your meat is done.  It should be very tender.  If it is, you’re good.  If not, cook another 20 minutes or so, adding water (and Marsala!) as necessary.  Don’t add too much water – we’re aiming for a thick gravy-like consistency.

Mealwhile, peel and boil your potatoes until they are tender.  Mash with milk and butter.

Start pre-heating the over to 350.

When the meat is tender, add the peas to the mix and stir well.  Put in a pie pan or a casserole dish.  Cover with a thick (thick, thick) layer of mashed potatoes.

Using a fork, drag it along the surface of the potatoes, creating deep ridges.
Now scatter grated cheese over the top of the potatoes.

Put the casserole in a preheated 350 degree oven.  Bake for about 35 minutes.

Serve with a nice dark beer for the adults, and ginger ale for the kids.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Barley Soup

Good for cold weather, and relatively cheap.  You can double the quantities for more soup.


  • a bunch of scallions
  • 3 or 4 cups Vegetable broth (canned if you don't have any frozen or fresh; you can use chicken if you prefer)
  • a cup of barley (this is sold with the cereal in my grocery, over by the oatmeal)
  • some dried mushrooms (I like shiitake)
  • 3-4 stalks celery
  • frozen peas
  • salt, pepper, thyme, a bay leaf

Cut up the scallions and the mushrooms.  Put them and the barley into the broth and cook until the barley is soft.  This will take about 15 or 20 minutes.  Put the bay leaf and the thyme in at this point too. 

I use a whole twig of thyme -- my store sells it fresh little packets pretty cheap, and then it's easy to fish out before I serve the soup, along with the bay leaf.  But you can use the kind that comes in the bottle, it's fine that way.  

If you're using chicken broth and you want to, you can add some chicken here.  I do this when I have leftover chicken.  

Once the barley is done, cook your peas while you cut up the celery.  Put the celery in the soup and cook briefly -- like two minutes.  Add the peas and stir.  Add salt and pepper.

Serve with good bread.