June set out to cook an entire week of meals for two on a budget of $25. The problem? Aaron do the shopping for her. Watch to see how she fared and check out the rest of her series, Eat on a budgeton Youtube!
Once upon a time, a viewer commented that in a future episode of Eat on a budget Aaron should do all the shopping for me. Sometimes in life all you have to do is plant a seed and wait patiently for it to sprout.
And now, several months later, Julia and I was talking about the potential Eat on a budget themes, and this one seemed right to me.
Before this episode, Julia and I agreed on these rules:
$25 budget, no dietary restrictions.
June has no influence on Aaron’s purchases.
Staple foods and condiments are allowed.
Aaron and I went shopping on a Saturday, and he was given free rein on the $25 budget. Alongside normal Eat on a budget purchases like pulses, vegetables and a $1 bag of bones were neater selections like sherry-flavored gelatin mix, cream-filled sandwich cookies, pre-packaged kakhraand a $5 splurge on paneer.
Unfortunately, our first task was to throw out moldy tomatoes and strawberries and freeze the ones that were out of breath. It turns out that when you buy $1 products, you usually get what you pay for.
Dan Dan Mian
On day 2, I struck gold. After deciding, for once, to just cook something as it should be, I created a shortened version of dan dan noodles with instant ramen noodles and cooked a savory meat filling with leftovers from our broth bones seasoned with doubanjiangSichuan pepper, white pepper and GMS. I gave them a 10/10 from the first bite and knew straight away it was going to be the best dish of the week.
Aaron agreed. Topped with crunchy roasted split peas, spicy snack peanuts, stale pickled Chinese radish and chili oil, my $2 version outperformed other versions we had already paid $12 for in restaurants. The key is in the excitement of your toppings, especially the chilli crisp, which is the flavor backbone throughout the dish. Another tip: don’t overcook your instant noodles. Once submerged in boiling water, drain in less than 2 minutes for the perfect al dente texture: carryover cooking will take care of all the crispy bites when it’s time to plate.
If you have seen an episode of Eat on a budget, now you know I love my peanut butter. So when Aaron grabbed a bag of Spicy Hot Peanuts, my subconscious was already turning the 3.5 ounces into endless possibilities.
Aaron wasn’t as big of a fan of it as I was, but the chaos really worked for me: the spicy Peanut Butter mingling with the scent of grapes Jell-O Strawberry Jam, seeping into the chickpea flour cake batter, topped with a cookie filled with strawberry cream. It was both sweet and exciting, familiar and unexpected, surprising but not shocking either. You could say she was the epitome of poise and eccentricity, the food-maniacal pixie dream girl.
Although they noted several other dishes above, these cheese bites that were a bit too dry and Tofu-the stuffed shishito peppers stuck in my head longer than expected: I went back for the leftovers twice the next day.
For that riff on jalapeno poppers, I dipped the stuffed peppers in a chickpea cake batter and rolled them in a powder of pulverized roasted split peas before baking them at 350° for 20 minutes. Although not crispy at all, the coating was nicely spiced, and when tossed in a trio of mayo, ketchup, and gochujang-sriracha sauces, every bite was reminiscent of fast food chicken nuggets.
My biggest concern this week was what to do with a packet of sherry flavored gelatin. Although I tried using it in savory dishes (much to my pleasant surprise and Aaron’s absolute horror), the best application was still in a dessert.
This being Eat on a budget, I couldn’t just serve a cup of off-brand Jell-O, even though there were fresh strawberries embedded in its translucent prison. This translucent prison would be the first layer of this Neapolitan creation, followed by two more layers that involved creamed tofu and crushed cookies married to the gelatin mixture.
While the flavors weren’t terrible, they weren’t something I was looking forward to eating more either. No regrets for the experimentation, but not all attempts will be successful.
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